Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the parent agency of Border Patrol, claims authority under a federal statute to conduct warrantless searches within a “reasonable distance” of the border. Those outdated regulations define “reasonable distance” to be “100 air miles” from any external boundary, including coastal boundaries, unless an agency official sets a shorter distance. In Michigan, the agency considers the entire state of Michigan as falling within the 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, so 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 required CBP to provide city/township-level geographic information, and 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.
In March 2021 we published our findings in a report entitled The Border’s Long Shadow: How Border Patrol Uses Racial Profiling and Local and State Police to Instill Fear in Michigan’s Immigrant Communities, a first-of-its-kind investigation of CBP’s Michigan operations. Following the release of our report, the Michigan State Police, who were responsible for initiating the detention of the most people who are transferred into CBP custody, adopted policy changes to better safeguard against violations of immigrants’ rights, and members of Congress have asked the Department of Homeland Security for briefing and information regarding the report’s 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.)