Uncovering the Government’s Internal Family Separation Policies, Guidance, and Data

American Immigration Council vs. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Case 1:18-cv-01531


The Trump administration’s policy of separating non-citizen families at the U.S.-Mexico border and any plans to reunite these families has largely been hidden from the public. This lawsuit seeks to compel government agencies to produce documents regarding family separation policies, guidance, and data in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by a coalition of organizations on April 3, 2018 that went unanswered.

The American Immigration Council and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP filed a complaint on June 27, 2018 challenging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) failure to response to the FOIA requests.

It is imperative that we fully understand the government’s system of separating immigrant children from their parents, the extent to which this policy has been implemented, and its impact on separated family members. The American public deserves transparency surrounding how and why ICE and CBP are engaging in this unconscionable practice.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On August 22, 2018, defendants filed an answer to the complaint. On August, 29, 2018 the Court ordered the government to produce a Vaughn index. The defendants filed an unopposed motion to stay order on September 21, 2018, and plaintiff provided proposed search terms on September 28, 2018 to narrow the search of the request.

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  • The requests ask for policies, guidelines, or procedures followed or used by the governmental agencies to address the processing and treatment of families at the U.S.-Mexico border and specifically, the separation of adult family members from minor children and the criminal prosecution of adult family members.

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