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Government Security News August Digital Edition

Border

Border Security/Immigration Government sued for withholding records on immigration raids By Tory Johnson The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is continuing to defend the controversial “Operation Border Guardian” program that took more than 100 Central American women and children from their homes in two days of immigration raids last January. According to a lawsuit filed this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the law firm Alston & Bird, the government has failed to release records related to the program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The complaint argues that DHS and its component agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) violated public records law by failing to substantively respond to a January 7 FOIA request seeking information related to the raids DHS conducted January 2 and January 3 in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. They are seeking records and information about how and why ICE went after the 121 individuals swept up in the raids. The widely-publicized round-ups raised concerns about constitutional and due process violations. 146 members of Congress and more than 150 organizations condemned the government’s actions, and local governments voiced their concerns about the damage to trust between communities and law enforcement. Lisa Graybill, SPLC deputy legal director, said that “there are serious questions about whether ICE agents’ conduct during these raids violated the Constitution. We cannot allow ICE, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, to avoid accountability and violate federal law by withholding these records.” The complaint alleges, for example, that ICE agents conducting the enforcement operations used deceptive tactics to enter homes. In some cases, according to the complaint: “ICE agents… stat[ed] that they were police officers looking for a criminal suspect and show[ed] residents a photo of an African-American man. In other instances, ICE agents allegedly stated that they were only taking the immigrants into custody for a short time to examine the 32 women’s electronic ankle shackles.” Moreover, “when asked for copies of warrants or orders to enter a home, ICE agents ignored the requests, threatened residents, or ordered them to ‘be quiet,’” according to the complaint. The families targeted by the raids actually had conditional permission to be in the United States. According to SPLC, they “had complied with orders of supervision provided by ICE, which permitted them to remain in the United States subject to certain conditions.” Yet the women and children were detained and most were subsequently deported. Only 12 families had their deportations halted, with the help of attorneys from the Dilley Pro Bono Project. ICE refuses to comment on pending litigation. The agency has 20 days and a 10-day extension to decide and notify SPLC whether or not it will comply with the request. Hopefully the government will act within that timeframe to release these important documents. As the complaint states, the public has a right to this information and the government a responsibility to be accountable for its actions. Photo: Julio Cesar

Court orders release of graphic photos of Arizona Border Patrol detention facilities WASHINGTON D.C. August 18, 2016 - Today, groups made public damning evidence, including expert testimony and video stills illustrating the deplorable and unconstitutional conditions detained individuals are subjected to in Border Patrol custody in the agency’s Tucson Sector. The court rejected Border Patrol’s effort to conceal evidence of inhumane and abusive detention practices from the public. Accepting the position of the Plaintiffs and the Arizona Republic, which intervened to argue for the release of the materials, the court recognized that access to court proceedings and to basic information about governmental practices are fundamental First Amendment rights. The video stills and expert testimony released today reveal that Border Patrol holds individuals—among them traumatized asylum seekers and mothers with infants and small children—for days at a time in cold, overcrowded, and dirty cells that are designed to detain people for only a few hours. Graphic photographs show detainees packed head-to-foot Tucson facility: men wrapped in Mylar sheets on concrete floors and benches near trash & toilets in filthy, overcrowded rooms. One image captures a mother changing an infant’s diaper on a trash-strewn concrete floor. Also among the unsealed documents is testimony from an expert for the Plaintiffs who wrote that, in his 35 years of experience work- 33 ing in correctional facilities, he had “never been in one that treats those confined in a manner that the CBP treats detainees.” Among other conclusions about the poor treatment of individuals detained in Border Patrol facilities, he said that “[t]he absence of medical screening upon arrival is unthinkable,” and that he had never before witnessed an attempt to “cram” so many people into so little space, without beds and bedding. He concluded, “[t] he CBP [is] housing people in conditions that are unnecessarily harsh, dangerous and contrary to accepted industry practices and standards.” “Every step the Government has taken in response to this lawsuit has been designed to delay this suit and hide the conditions present at these facilities,” said Louise Stoupe of Morrison & Foerster. “The Govern-