ACLU sues Border Patrol for records on 'roving patrols'

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent suits up for his night patrol along the international border between Mexico and the United States near San Diego, California, March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol for records on the agency’s practice of “roving patrols”.

The lawsuit stems from an unanswered July 2014 request submitted under the Freedom of Information Act to the department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for information on the patrols, which have resulted in people being stopped as far as 100 miles (160 km) from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Border Patrol operates as a rogue agency, claiming extra-constitutional powers that extend far from any border, and operating with no effective oversight,” said Adrienna Wong, attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California in a statement.

The ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the University of California at Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic filed the suit in a California federal court.

They asked for a court to order the agencies to release data for the San Diego and El Centro sectors on the number of stops conducted, policies for how such stops are executed, and complaints filed by people who were stopped.

Calls for comment to local and Washington D.C. offices of the Border Patrol were not returned late Tuesday night.

In April, the ACLU and two University of Arizona law professors filed a similar suit over the agencies’ failure to release information on the roving patrols in Tucson and Yuma, according to court records.

Previous reviews by the ACLU of roving patrol data from the U.S.-Canada border found that only one percent of stops yielded deportable immigrants and that many stops violated agency arrest guidelines, stemmed from racial profiling, and violated people’s Constitutional rights, according to a statement on the ACLU website.

“Roving patrols have long been associated with civil rights violations, and abuses are not limited to the Southwest, as prior FOIA lawsuits have shown,” the statement said.

Editing by Curtis Skinner and Tom Heneghan