Chicago — The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit today demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.
Today’s action is part of a total of 13 FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country. The ACLU of Illinois lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Chicago field office. Specifically, the ACLU is seeking records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The situation at O’Hare during the first day of enforcing the travel ban was especially chaotic, with lawyers representing arriving passengers unable to get information about whether they were being detained or not. The situation created a great deal of tension for families await arriving passengers from oversees.
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.
“The chaos and uncertainty faced by families and travelers in January cannot simply be ignored now that the ban has been blocked,” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois. “CPB has a great deal of power over people’s lives as they enter the country, and they should not be able to exercise this authority in the dark, without any public scrutiny.”
The ACLU of Illinois is being represented in this lawsuit by Natalie Spears, Greg Naron and Patrick Kabat of the Chicago office of Dentons.
“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.
The coordinated lawsuits seek information from the following local CBP offices: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Tucscon.