Civil Rights Groups Sue Homeland Security in Response to Growing Complaints of Harassment at U.S. Borders

The Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for denying access to public records on the questioning and searches of travelers at U.S. borders. Filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the suit responds to growing complaints by U.S. citizens and immigrants of excessive or repeated screenings by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

ALC, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization, received more than 20 complaints from Northern California residents last year who said they were grilled about their families, religious practices, volunteer activities, political beliefs, or associations when returning to the United States from travels abroad. In addition, customs agents examined travelers’ books, business cards collected from friends and colleagues, handwritten notes, personal photos, laptop computer files, and cell phone directories, and sometimes made copies of this information. When individuals complained, they were told, “This is the border, and you have no rights.”

More...“When the government searches your books, peers into your computer, and demands to know your political views, it sends the message that free expression and privacy disappear at our nation’s doorstep,” said Shirin Sinnar, staff attorney at ALC. “The fact that so many people face these searches and questioning every time they return to the United States, not knowing why and unable to clear their names, violates basic notions of fairness and due process.”

ALC and EFF asked DHS to disclose its policies on questioning travelers on First Amendment-protected activities, photocopying individuals’ personal papers, and searching laptop computers and other electronic devices. The agency failed to meet the 20-day time limit that Congress has set for responding to public information requests, prompting the lawsuit.

“The public has the right to know what the government’s standards are for border searches,” said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “Laptops, phones, and other gadgets include vast amounts of personal information. When will agents read your email? When do they copy data, where is it stored, and for how long? How will this information follow you throughout your life? The secrecy surrounding border search policies means that DHS has no accountability to America’s travelers.”

When Nabila Mango, an American citizen and San Francisco therapist, returned from a trip to the Middle East in December, customs agents at San Francisco International Airport asked her to name every person she had met and every place she had slept during her travels. They also searched her Arabic music books, business cards, and cell phone, and may have photocopied some of her papers. “In my 40 years in this country, I have never felt as vulnerable as I did during that interrogation,” Mango said. “I want to find out whether my government is keeping files on me and other Americans based on our associations and ideas.”

Amir Khan, an IT consultant from Fremont, California and a U.S. citizen, is stopped each time he returns to the country. Customs officials have questioned him for a total of more than 20 hours and have searched his laptop computer, books, personal notebooks, and cell phone. Despite filing several complaints, Khan has yet to receive an explanation of why he is repeatedly singled out. “One customs officer even told me that no matter what I do, nothing would improve,” said Khan. “Why do I have to part with my civil liberties each time I return home?”

For a copy of the complaint filed today, see http://www.asianlawcaucus.org/ under “News.”

20 responses to “Civil Rights Groups Sue Homeland Security in Response to Growing Complaints of Harassment at U.S. Borders”

  1. Someone essentially assist to make seriously posts I’d state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this actual put up amazing. Excellent task!

  2. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Very helpful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such info a lot.
    I was looking for this particular information for a very long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  3. Hi there friends, how is the whole thing, and what you desire to
    say regarding this piece of writing, in my view its in fact remarkable in favor of me.

  4. I’m not sure exactly why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if
    the problem still exists.

  5. Thankfulness to my father who stated to me on the topic of this weblog, this webpage is truly amazing.

  6. Pretty component to content. I simply stumbled upon your
    web site and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed account your weblog posts.
    Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I success you get right of entry to persistently fast.

  7. Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but when
    opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, great blog!

  8. Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to
    give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics?
    Thanks for your time!

  9. I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content.
    The article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your site and keep checking
    for new details about once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

  10. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people
    you actually realize what you are talking about! Bookmarked.
    Kindly also visit my web site =). We can have a hyperlink change agreement between
    us

  11. I’ll immediately grab your rss feed as I can not find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly permit me know so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  12. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog
    and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement
    you access consistently rapidly.

  13. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you can be a great
    author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back later on.
    I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have
    a nice afternoon!

  14. Today, I went to the beach with my children.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her
    ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and
    it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
    LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  15. If you desire to grow your experience just keep visiting
    this website and be updated with the most recent
    gossip posted here.

  16. My brother suggested I might like this web site.
    He was totally right. This post truly made my day.
    You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  17. whoah this blog is wonderful i really like studying your
    posts. Keep up the great work! You recognize, lots of people
    are searching round for this information, you could help them greatly.

  18. Highly energetic post, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part
    2?

  19. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to
    do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thanks a lot

  20. Inspiring story there. What occurred after?

    Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s