On May 20, 2020, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic at Villanova University filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seeking documents under the federal Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). The plaintiffs are asking a federal court to compel ICE to release the documents, which the agency has twice denied previously.
In August 2019, ACLU-PA and the clinic filed a FOIA request for all Form I-213s that are held by ICE’s Philadelphia field office. Form I-213 is completed by ICE officers when they arrest a person for civil immigration purposes. It includes narrative that explains why the officer arrested the person and the tactics the officer used to make the arrest.
Reports indicate that the ICE office in Philadelphia, which enforces civil immigration law in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, is one of the busiest offices in the country. In 2016, the office was responsible for more than 3,000 arrests. In 2017, the number of arrests increased by about one-third, to more than 4,000. In the first six months of 2018 alone, the office arrested 2,995 people.
Press reports have indicated that ICE’s Philadelphia field office is one of the most active offices in the country and that its officers sometimes engage in questionable activities, including trespassing, warrantless searches, and racial profiling.
The lawsuit asks the court to find ICE in violation of the Freedom Of Information Act, order the agency to release the documents with costs waived, and to award attorneys fees for the plaintiffs.