ACLU Files Suit Claiming Civil Rights Abuses by Border Patrol

Apr 28, 2014

Claiming a pattern of civil rights abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit today in federal court to find out exactly how the Border Patrol enforces immigration law far from Mexico. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

A U.S. Border Patrol truck on the Arizona-Mexico border.
Credit David McNew/Getty Images

ACLU attorney James Lyall said the lawsuit comes after the Department of Homeland Security ignored several requests by his agency for documents related to both policies and practices of the Border Patrol. He said officers are supposed to have reasonable suspicion that immigration laws have been violated to pull someone over far north of the border.

“But, what we see are innocent people being pulled over 50, 60, 70, sometimes over 100 miles north of the border, essentially on a whim. And they can’t do that. That is against the law. It happens all the time,” Lyall said.

Lyall said there also are limits on what a Border Patrol officer can do at checkpoints.

“He cannot search your car without probable cause. He cannot detain you to interrogate you about matters unrelated to briefly verifying residence status, among other limitations. And yet Border Patrol frequently ignores those limitations,” he said.

Lyall said the documents about policies, coupled with records of actual stops, should provide the ammunition needed to force a change in agency practice. There was no immediate response from Homeland Security.