Federal law permits United States Border Patrol officers to search vehicles without a warrant within a “reasonable distance” of the border, which outdated regulations define at 100 miles. Border Patrol, by treating the Great Lakes as an international boundary, considers the entire State of Michigan to be within the warrantless 100-mile zone.
The ACLU of Michigan and coalition partners filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more information about these warrantless searches, but Border Patrol failed to respond. In November 2016 we sued in federal court to obtain the records. The records produced so far are heavily redacted, but nevertheless paint a disturbing picture: almost one in three people processed by Border Patrol are U.S. citizens, and almost 40 percent are U.S. citizens or foreigners who are legally present in the country; less than 2 percent of foreign citizens stopped are recorded as having a criminal record; and over 63 percent were first stopped by another agency, like local police, suggesting significant entanglement between local law enforcement and Border Patrol.
Although CBP provided some information in response to our lawsuit, it redacted all geographic information from the records, making it impossible to determine where in Michigan CBP is operating and how far from the actual border the agency is conducting warrantless searches. We therefore filed a motion asking the court to order the records produced in unredacted form. In August 2018 Judge Mark Goldsmith heard oral argument, and we are awaiting a decision.
(Michigan Immigrant Rights Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman and Michael J. Steinberg and Legal Fellow Juan Caballero; Cooperating Attorneys Samuel Damren and Corey Wheaton of Dykema.)