PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, in coordination with the ACLU affiliates in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit today demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.

Today’s action is part of a series of FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Baltimore field office.  In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Philadelphia International Airport, where at least five travelers were detained and one Syrian family was refused entry and sent to Qatar. The ACLU of Pennsylvania subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of that Syrian family, which led to their return to the United States.

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP on February 2. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing. The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other local affiliates has been filed in the federal Eastern District of Virginia.

“The Muslim ban is really unprecedented in both its scope and vindictiveness. It was quickly put into place without much forethought, and local CBP agents were left trying to figure out how to implement it,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The courts quickly halted its enforcement, but we still do not know what kind of guidance CBP received and how faithfully the agency followed court orders. The documents we requested should shed light on this question.” 

“CBP has a long history of ignoring its obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act — a law that was enacted to ensure that Americans have timely access to information of pressing public concern. The public has a right to know how federal immigration officials have handled the implementation of the Muslim bans, especially after multiple federal courts have blocked various aspects of these executive orders,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Each of the lawsuits seeks unique and local information regarding how CBP implemented the executive orders at specific airports and ports of entry in the midst of rapidly developing and sometimes conflicting government guidance.

The coordinated lawsuits seek information from the following local CBP offices:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Tampa
  • Tucson

A copy of the complaint filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the other regional affiliates is available at this link.

All of the ACLU affiliates’ FOIA lawsuits will be available here.