Judicial Watch Sues DHS for Border Crisis Planning Records
NOVEMBER 13, 2014
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on September 4, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeking “all records” concerning a February 25-27 Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office Juvenile Coordination meeting (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:14-cv-01509)).
ERO is the division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that, according to the government website, has the responsibility, “To identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally ….” Juvenile Coordinators have the responsibility for enforcing ERO directives nationwide with regard to Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).
The lawsuit, filed after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to respond to a July 1, 2014, FOIA request, seeks the following:
Any and all records of the Enforcement & Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office Juvenile Coordination Meeting in Washington, DC on 25-27 February 2014, to include, but not limited to: schedule, participants, training materials, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, policies, etc.
Shortly after the February ERO Field Office Juvenile Coordination Washington meeting, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), in March 2014, issued a National Center for Border Security and Immigration “Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Report” revealing that ICE and ERO agents were then blaming the “lack of deterrence” for an increase in UAC border crossings. According to the report:
Both Border Patrol and ICE ERO officers agreed that the lack of deterrence for crossing the US-Mexican border has impacted the rate at which they apprehend UACs. Officers are certain that UACs are aware of the relative lack of consequences they will receive when apprehended at the U.S. border. UTEP was informed that smugglers of family members of UACs understand that once a UAC is apprehended for illegal entry into the United States, the individual will be re-united with a U.S. based family member pending the disposition of the immigration hearing. This process appears to be exploited by illegal alien smugglers and family members in the United States who wish to reunite with separated children.
On January 29, 2014, immediately preceding the Washington ERO Field Office Juvenile Coordination February meeting, ICE posted “Request for Information (RFI)/Sources Sought: Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children” seeking a contractor to provide the following services:
The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent unaccompanied alien children ages infant to 17 years of age, seven (7) days a week, 365 days a year. Transport will be required for either category of UAC or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles. There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total: 25% local ground transport, 25% via ICE charter and 50% via commercial air. [Emphasis added]
On October 16, 2014, Judicial Watch filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against DHS seeking “any and all records” relating to the ICE RFI.
President Obama suggested the border crisis was over during his post-election press conference:
When the issue of unaccompanied children cropped up during this summer, there was a lot of folks who perceived this as a major crisis in our immigration system. Now, the fact is, is that those numbers have now come down and they’re approximately where they were a year ago or two years ago or a year before that.
This statement seems at odds with a statement by a top Obama appointee that the administration is expecting another border crisis. As reported in the Washington Examiner on October 21:
As President Obama readies a post-election immigration plan expected to clear a path for citizenship for millions of illegals, his immigration czar on Tuesday said that the border is bracing for another surge of undocumented children, raising this year’s wave across the southern border to some 130,000.
Leon Rodriguez, the new director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, said that the federal government is already working to “prepare for another potential surge” across the border.
“The Obama administration is trying to cover up the truth about the border crisis caused by President Obama’s lawless amnesty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, “Our latest lawsuit is one of several filed by Judicial Watch to expose the truth about Obama’s amnesty disaster. We have little doubt that the Obama administration knew from its own immigration enforcement personnel that its refusal to enforce immigration law was going to cause a border crisis. Yet, rather than secure the border and follow the law, the Obama administration aided and abetted the human trafficking operations that planted hundreds of thousands illegal aliens all over the nation – overwhelming our schools and putting the health and safety of Americans at risk. And now President Obama wants to grant illicit amnesty to those who rushed here this summer thanks to his previous lawless amnesty! The DHS is breaking immigration law on orders from this president and is now engaging in illegal secrecy to cover it up.”
An Election Day voter poll by The Polling Company Inc., commissioned by Breitbart and Judicial Watch, shows that a majority of voters (58%) believe “We should enforce current laws that require illegal immigrants to return to their home countries.” And half of all Americans (50%) believe the United States should change current immigration law to slow the rate of legal immigration.