Federal Judge Forces CBP to Name Names in Profiling Lawsuit

January 05, 2012


Recent revelations, following a racial discrimination lawsuit, reveal that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency operated a program in which they categorized those they arrested as: “Mexican”, “Other than Mexicans” or “Alien from a Special Interest Country.”
These revelations came to light recently following a lawsuit by Families for Freedom, an organization fights for immigrants facing detention. In the lawsuit, Families for Freedom alleged that border patrol agents were racially profiling bus and train travelers that travel along Lake Ontario in upstate New York.
Families for Freedom sought to expose CBP’s procedures and practices by demanding that arrest forms, statistics, quotas and documents with goals and targets about the immigration enforcement program be released.
Federal authorities claimed they were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and should not have to release the data. But, last week, Judge Shira Scheindlin, who in earlier decisions required that the documents be made public, granted plaintiffs' additional requests that the names and titles of high-level officials that had been redacted from earlier documents be released.
Families for Freedom, in a complaint filed in May, said border patrol agents were searching buses, trains and airports along the northern border asking travelers about their immigration status.
Families for Freedom have charged CBP, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement with violating passengers’ constitutional rights by investigating immigration status without reasonable suspicion and with a discriminatory focus on race.
“The agents frequently conduct questioning in a discriminatory manner by either picking and choosing passengers to question on the improper basis of race or by probing passengers of color more carefully during questioning than other passengers,” the complaint states.
In 2004, CBP opened an immigration office in Rochester, N.Y., to operate immigration patrols on a ferry service that carried passengers from New York to Toronto. When the ferry service shut down two years later, the Rochester immigration office quadrupled in size and increased patrols along the border after Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
Controversy surrounding the program seems to have brought about its end. In October, the Associated Press reported: “The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly stopped its controversial practice of routinely searching buses, trains and airports for illegal immigrants at transportation hubs along the northern border and in the U.S. interior.”

The recent federal decision is a clear victory for all who support transparency and the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

--By Keith Rushing