The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit today demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans in Michigan.
“President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order barring entry to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries led to utter chaos,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU. “Michiganders need to know exactly what happened that day, and what has been going on since then, including whether people were or are being illegally detained, illegally coerced into giving up their green cards, or illegally removed from the United States.”
Michigan has been particularly hard hit by the Executive Orders because, among major metropolitan areas, Detroit has the highest number of residents per capita from the seven countries barred under the original Executive Order.
Today’s action is part of a total of 13 FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country. The ACLU of Michigan lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Detroit Field Office. In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Detroit Metro Airport, and at Michigan’s border crossings with Canada, including the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, the International Bridge in Sault Sainte Marie, and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.
The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP in early February. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing. The ACLU of Michigan previously filed a separate lawsuit, together with the Arab American Civil Rights League, challenging the constitutionality of the Muslim bans.
“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 lawsuit 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, including confusion about whether lawful permanent residents were barred and whether Canadian dual citizens from the banned countries could continue to work or study in the United States.
After courts blocked the initial January 27 Executive Order, President Trump issued a revised Executive Order on March 6, which was also blocked by the courts.
The attorneys in the ACLU of Michigan lawsuit are Miriam Aukerman, Gabriel Bedoya, Andrew Goddeeris, Michael Steinberg, and Andrew Pauwels.
In addition to Detroit, the coordinated lawsuits seek information from the following local CBP offices:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
All of the ACLU affiliate FOIA lawsuits are available here.
The ACLU national release is here.
The press releases on the original coordinated FOIA requests are here.
More background on CBP’s FOIA practices is here.
Information on ACRL v. Trump, which challenges the constitutionality of the Muslim bans is here.