Lawsuit Seeks to Shed Light on Customs and Border Protection's Complaint Process

Lawsuit Seeks to Shed Light on Customs and Border Protection's Complaint Process

July 6, 2016

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council (Immigration Council), represented by Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, today filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the release of additional documents related to the complaints process at United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Through this suit, the Immigration Council is seeking to update information received from CBP in its previously filed FOIA request, where it obtained data concerning 809 complaints of abuse lodged against U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents between January 2009 and January 2012.

The Immigration Council analyzed this earlier data in a May 2014 report entitled No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse, revealing that the recorded outcome in 97 percent of the cases CBP claimed to have resolved was “no action.” The data further showed that “physical abuse” by USBP agents was the most prevalent reason given for filing a complaint (cited in 40 percent of the complaints), with “excessive use of force” referenced in 38 percent of the cases.

To determine whether there had been any improvement since January 2012, the Immigration Council filed a follow-up FOIA request to CBP on October 2, 2015, asking for documentation concerning complaints made against CBP agents and officers since January 1, 2012, as well as the process CBP has used to investigate and resolve these complaints.

More than eight months have passed since CBP received the Immigration Council’s 2015 FOIA request, but CBP has not provided any responsive documents, violating FOIA and impeding the Immigration Council’s efforts to assess and inform the public about CBP’s progress, or lack thereof, in developing meaningful and transparent procedures for investigating and resolving complaints of abuse by USBP agents.

"CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States and over the years, there have been numerous reports of abuse or misconduct by USBP agents, but CBP historically has not been held accountable for the misconduct of its agents and has often tried to shield such misconduct from public scrutiny,” said Mary Kenney, Senior Staff Attorney at the American Immigration Council.

“The trends we identified in our last report revealed a stunning lack of oversight and accountability on behalf of the agency,” said Guillermo Cantor, Ph.D., Deputy Director of Research at the American Immigration Council. “It’s important that the public have the opportunity to see whether any progress has been made with respect to how CBP responds to complaints and holds its officers accountable.”

The filed complaint is here.

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For press inquiries, contact Wendy Feliz at [email protected] or 202-507-7524

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