The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU of Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without warrants at the U.S. border.
The plaintiffs in the case are 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident who hail from seven states and come from a variety of backgrounds. The lawsuit challenges the government’s fast-growing practice of searching travelers’ electronic devices without a warrant. It seeks to establish that the government must have a warrant based on probable cause to suspect a violation of immigration or customs laws before conducting such searches.
The plaintiffs include a military veteran, journalists, students, an artist, a NASA engineer, and a business owner. Several are Muslims and people of color. All were reentering the country from business or personal travel when border officers searched their devices. They were not subsequently accused of any wrongdoing. Officers also confiscated and kept the devices of several plaintiffs for weeks or months.
The number of electronic device searches at the border began increasing in 2016 and has grown even more under the Trump administration. CBP officers conducted nearly 15,000 electronic device searches in the first half of fiscal year 2017, putting CBP on track to conduct more than three times the number of searches than in fiscal year 2015 (8,503) and some 50 percent more than in fiscal year 2016 (19,033).
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.