September 21, 2023
IRLI sues CBP for release of data on family units separated last year
WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in federal district court against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seeking to compel the agency to provide 2022 family-separation numbers first requested in January.
Illegal alien advocates began complaining about family separation shortly after the Trump Administration implemented its “Zero Tolerance” policy and began criminally prosecuting border jumpers for “improper entry by an alien.”
In the United States adults who are with minors when they are arrested for any type of offense have always been separated from them. This is true when a U.S. citizen is arrested for drunk driving with kids in the car as it is when an illegal alien is arrested for immigration violations when crossing the border with minors. And it has been standard practice for decades.
Nevertheless, the Biden Administration condemned any kind of family separation – even for legitimate reasons – as “abhorrent.” However, while Team Biden appears to have ended almost all improper entry prosecutions, it has continued, and even may have increased, the so-called family separations.
On January 3, 2023, IRLI filed a FOIA request with CBP asking for the number of alleged family units separated between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, as well as how many total minors were separated from adults during the same period.
Notably, IRLI’s FOIA request was not for communications or other detailed records that might be difficult to locate, only for raw numbers that CBP should already be compiling in order to comply with both federal transparency regulations and Congressional oversight requirements.
Under FOIA, an agency is supposed to determine whether and to what extent it will comply with a request and provide relevant public records within twenty working days. However, more than seven months after IRLI’s request was filed, CBP had still not responded to IRLI’s request. Accordingly, IRLI filed suit to compel production of the requested information.
“This suit was necessary in light of the Biden Administration’s hypocrisy and lack of transparency regarding its immigration policies,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The Biden White House and its supporters vilified the Trump Administration over family separations, yet it seems they have done it to an even greater degree. They also ignore FOIA requests because compliance would reveal data embarrassing to the administration. This court should force the White House to be accountable to the American people and provide information we have a right to know.”
According to IRLI’s director of investigations Matt O’Brien, “The failure to produce these records is part of an ongoing effort by the Biden Administration to deceive the American public and portray its border policies as ‘kinder’ than those of former President Trump. In reality, Team Biden is engaging in the exact same detention practices as both the Trump Administration and the Obama Administration.”
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