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Homeland Security sued for refusing to release Az checkpoint data

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Homeland Security sued for refusing to release Az checkpoint data

  • A U.S. Border Patrol agent at the Arivaca checkpoint.
    Paul M. Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA U.S. Border Patrol agent at the Arivaca checkpoint.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two University of Arizona professors are suing the Department of Homeland Security over the agency's refusal to release documents relating to roving patrols and checkpoints in Southern Arizona. 

The lawsuit stems from two document requests sent to DHS on Jan. 23 by ACLU staff attorney James Lyall, and Derek and Jane Bambauer, both professors at the University of Arizona's James E. Roger College of Law. According to the ACLU, the agency has ignored these requests and failed to follow the requirement of the Freedom of Information Act. 

The lawsuit seeks to force the agency to immediately provide information to the ACLU on interior enforcement operations by the Border Patrol in the Tucson and Yuma sectors, including "agency policies, stop data, and complaint records." The lawsuit also asks for documents relating to the training, certification and performance of drug sniffing dogs, including how the agency deals with "false alerts." 

This data would include a controversial checkpoint in Arivaca, where the ACLU has fought to stop Border Patrol agents from interfering with a group of local residents who are videotaping agents to observe and document potential abuses. The group began the observation program after the agency refused to release information regarding complaints about the checkpoint, including alleged racial profiling and excessive use of force. 

Lyall wants information about the "roving patrols" by agents who operate in the interior of the United States beyond the border, arguing that agents are improperly using race as the reason to stop and interrogate people about their nationality and citizenship status, failing to follow the law and the agency's own policies. 

In a statement released Monday, Lyall wrote: 

“It’s outrageous that the leaders of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency think that they can simply ignore lawful requests for public information. For Border Patrol to be held accountable they have to be transparent. But the agency consistently refuses to share basic information with the American people while rights violations are rampant.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tucson. 

According to the ACLU, past public information requests in Washington and New York have uncovered similar problems in those states, including racial profiling and the detention of people lawfully in the country. 

DHS must file a response to the suit by May 28. 

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aclu, border patrol, dhs, james lyall, ua

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