Hodgdon – The ACLU of Maine today filed a lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after the agencies flouted their responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The ACLU charges the agencies ignored a FOIA request for records about investigations into the citizenship status of bus passengers in Maine.

The ACLU filed the records request in January, after learning that CBP agents were questioning passengers boarding a Concord Trailways bus in Bangor. The government has failed to turn over records or respond to the request in any way, in violation of FOIA law.

“The public has the right to know how immigration agents are operating in our state. Yet CBP has a long history of disregarding the law and ignoring public records requests,” said Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine. 

CBP claims the authority to question people, for any reason at all, within 100 miles of any national or coastal border. This zone encompasses the entirety of Maine. Across the country, there have been increasing reports of CBP stopping bus passengers to check their citizenship status, without a warrant, reasonable suspicion or probable cause. This includes multiple reports in Maine.

“We shouldn’t have to prove our citizenship just to ride the bus,” said Bond. “Allowing government agents to demand that we ‘show our papers’ any time they feel like it is a threat to our freedom and democracy.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, seeks to compel the government to release records concerning CBP’s citizenship checkpoints and other operations in Maine, and CBP’s coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement. 

The ACLU’s complaint and original FOIA request are available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/en/cases/aclu-maine-v-dhs-et-al

 

 

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