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Access To Border Patrol Records Prompts Lawsuit

U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints like this one on I-19 in Southern Arizona are set up all around the country within a 100 miles from the United States border. (Jude Joffe-Block)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and two professors filed a lawsuit Monday against the Department of Homeland Security. They said the agency is violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding data about Border Patrol’s activities in Southern Arizona.

The ACLU and University of Arizona law school professors Derek Bambauer and Jane Yakowitz Bambauer want data on Border Patrol’s interior checkpoints and roving patrols in Southern Arizona.

They want to review the records because they allege civil-rights abuses are occurring.

They filed Freedom of Information Act requests in January, and then again in February, but the plaintiffs said they've gotten no response. Now they are suing for the records.

James Lyall, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Arizona, said when civil-liberties groups in New York managed to get similar Border Patrol data they found some disturbing trends.

"It showed major problems," Lyall said. "Including widespread racial profiling, detention of lawfully present individuals. And often times that's what we see: the agency not wanting to turn over information, not because it is national-security sensitive, but because it paints a very unflattering portrait of what the agency is actually doing."

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.