ACLU of Southern California Presses For Answers on Border Patrol Sweeps

July 20, 2004 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection about recent immigration raids conducted across Southern California.

“The information provided by the customs agency has been limited at best and contradictory at worst,” said Ranjana Natarajan, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “Given the confusion and fear surrounding the actions of customs officers, it is critical that the community have a clear understanding of what exactly took place. So far, we have been kept in the dark, which only heightens the sense of anxiety throughout the community.”

The FOIA request was prompted by raids conducted by roving customs patrols that resulted in the questioning and detentions of hundreds of Latino residents in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties. The ACLU of Southern California has asked Customs to explain their reasons for conducting the patrols and disclose details about whom the agency questioned, detained, and deported. The agency has yet to release any substantive information to the public about how or why the raids were conducted, except to state that they were based on “intelligence” and that they targeted people based on nationality.

As a result of the lack of public information around the roving sweeps, businesses, schools and even health clinics have experienced a drastic decrease in community participation and commerce.

“There is no question that the raids spread fear and panic throughout the community,” said Jim Mangia, director of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles. “People were afraid to go to work, send their children to school and even visit the doctor. Often times people don’t realize that these sort of events have a ripple effect throughout the community.”

The ACLU’s FOIA request asks U.S. Customs and Border Protection to disclose, among other things:

  • The total number of persons questioned and detained;
  • The number of persons traveling by vehicle who were questioned;
  • The total number of persons removed from the U.S., and the countries to which they were removed;
  • Any records involving California state and local law enforcement involvement with the raids.

The ACLU of Southern California has set up a call line to gather information on the raids. Those who have been subjected to the sweeps are encouraged to call (213) 977-5218.

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