CHARLESTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Atlanta to expose how Trump Administration officials are interpreting and executing the president’s unconstitutional immigration ban.
The filing was part of a coordinated effort from four ACLU affiliates in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Fifty ACLU affiliates have filed 18 FOIA requests with CBP field offices and its headquarters, spanning 55 international airports across the country.
“Federal courts around the country have found President Trump’s Executive Order unconstitutional, but lawyers around the country are reporting that these orders are not being followed,” said ACLU of WV Legal Director Jamie Lynn Crofts. “The public has a right to know if the United States government is purposefully flouting court orders. And if they are, the people making those decisions must be held accountable. Situations like this are what the Freedom of Information Act is for.”
CBP officials detained and deported individuals, according to media reports, even after federal courts ordered officials to stop enforcing the Trump executive order through a petition from the ACLU and other organizations.
In Georgia, a CNN producer was detained at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, despite being a permanent legal resident and having the proper paperwork, according to an ACLU press release.
“It is imperative that the public learn if federal immigration officials are blatantly defying nationwide federal court orders that discontinue President Trump’s unconstitutional immigration ban,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “To shed light on this critical issue of pressing public concern, fifty ACLU affiliates are using the Freedom of Information Act to expose Customs and Border Protection’s abuse of power.”
The Trump administration has yet to inform the public of how many refugees, visa holders and legal permanent residents have been affected by this unlawful action, according to the press release.
The letter states that the after President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order halting refugee admissions and barring entrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, CBP officials across the country had detained an estimated 100 to 200 individuals at airports throughout the country by the following day, including Hartsfield/Jackson International Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charleston International Airport and Yeager International Airport.
Five federal courts ordered officials to temporarily stop enforcement of the executive order. In spite of court orders, some CBP officials appear to be continuing to detain individuals.
The ACLU is seeking to supplement the public record to clarify CBP’s understanding and implementation of the executive order at the four international airports in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
The ACLU is asking for records created on or after Jan. 27 concerning CBP’s interpretation, enforcement and implementation the executive order; records concerning the number of individuals who were detained or subjected to secondary screening, extended questioning, an enforcement examination or consideration for a waiver; records concerning the number of individuals who have been removed from the airports since Jan. 27; records concerning the number of individuals who arrived at the airports since Jan. 27; and records containing the “guidance” that was “provided to DHS field personnel shortly” after Trump signed the executive order.
The ACLU letter is signed by Irena Como of ACLU of North Carolina.