U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Port of Entry Practices FOIA

Friday, October 26, 2018

On December 16, 2016, in response to reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel were turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, the American Immigration Council filed a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and CBP.

The request asks for records related to CBP’s processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry along the U.S. southern border.  Among other records, the request seeks records related to:

  • Terms and conditions under which CBP personnel may turn away or delay asylum seekers arriving at a port of entry;
  • Policies, procedures, recommendations, or guidelines relating to:
    • Scheduling appointments for asylum seekers to present themselves at a port of entry;
    • Use of tickets or a ticketing system to process asylum seekers at a port of entry;
    • Requiring asylum seekers to provide documentation before allowing them to present themselves at a port of entry;
    • Use of shelters to house asylum seekers so that they can be processed on later dates;
    • Directing asylum seekers away from a port of entry;
    • Requiring or conducting pre-screening of asylum seekers;
  • Training materials used to instruct, guide, or otherwise prepare CBP personnel to process asylum seekers;
  • Legal or other agreements governing the collaboration of CBP personnel with Mexican government officials or other private actors regarding the arrival or processing of asylum seekers at a port of entry. 

This FOIA request is currently being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In the year and a half since the FOIA request was filed, CBP largely failed to provide any records in response to the request. On June 11, 2018, the Council, represented by O’Melveny & Myers LLP, filed a lawsuit to compel DHS and CBP to comply with FOIA and to release additional records related to the 2016 request.
Asylum seekers are being illegally turned away by Customs and Border Protection officers. We're suing.

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