Federal law permits Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to search vehicles without a warrant within a “reasonable distance” of the border, which outdated regulations define at 100 miles. CBP, 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 CBP failed to respond.
In 2016 we sued in federal court to obtain the records. 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. In 2018 we reached a settlement agreement that requires CBP to provide city/township-level geographic information.
In March 2020 we finally received the last of the documents. Our analysis of those records showed disturbing patterns of racial profiling and abuse, as well as extensive and damaging entanglement between local law enforcement and CBP. We are preparing a full report on our findings.
(Michigan Immigrant Rights Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Monica Andrade and Juan Caballero; Cooperating Attorneys Samuel Damren, Dante Stella, Nina Gavrilovic, and Corey Wheaton of Dykema.)