Thursday, April 13, 2017

ACLU seeks government documents about Trump's Muslim bans

Spontaneous protests broke out at airports across the country when Donald Trump issued his Muslim ban orders.

THE ACLU filed 13 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits across the country yesterday (April 12) demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.

The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuits seeks records from local offices of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security and specifically covers their operations in 14 cities across the country.

The suits cover CBP operations in Portland, Maine, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco, Seattle, Tucson, Miami and Tampa. One suit filed in Florida covers the two cities in that state.

The suits are an attempt to enforce requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) just days after Trump signed the first Muslim ban last January.

That first order, intended to fulfill a campaign promise to take a tough stance on immigration, first temporarily barred travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order, which also temporarily barred refugees, led to a weekend of confusion by airport and federal agents on how to enforce those orders at U.S. airports with travelers barred from entering the country upon landing while thousands of people turned out to protest the measures.

A federal judge ordered a halt to enforcement of that ban and Trump followed up in March with a less-sweeping order that did not limit travelers from Iraq, but which was also challenged in courts resulting in a nationwide stay of that order.

Opponents said the orders violated the U.S. constitution’s prohibitions on religious discrimination, citing Trump’s campaign promises to impose a “Muslim ban.”

The Trump administration said the restrictions are legal and are necessary to protect U.S. national security.

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP on February 2. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing.

“CBP has a long history of ignoring its obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act — a law that was enacted to ensure that Americans have timely access to information of pressing public concern. The public has a right to know how federal immigration officials have handled the implementation of the Muslim bans, especially after multiple federal courts have blocked various aspects of these executive orders,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Each lawsuit seeks unique and local information regarding how CBP implemented the executive orders at specific airports and ports of entry in the midst of rapidly developing and sometimes conflicting government guidance.