The ACLU of Massachusetts today announced it—together with Todd & Weld—has filed a lawsuit demanding information about a “contract for another large section” of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The contract was announced on Twitter by President Trump on December 24, 2018.
Two days after a partial shutdown of the federal government began, President Trump announced on Twitter that he “just gave out a 115 mile long [sic] contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” The December announcement did not explain the source of funding for the contract, the procedure by which it was awarded, or the scope of the contracted project.
On December 28, 2018, the ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a public records request to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), seeking the contract and related documents, including requests for proposals, documentation of selection, purchase orders, invoices, and studies of cost, effectiveness and/or environmental impact.
"This administration’s manufactured security emergency isn’t credible—and so far, neither is this announcement,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “President Trump and Secretary Nielsen have lied about border statistics and conditions, continued to push narratives that are proven false, and egregiously distorted realities. With the President’s imminent threat of a state of domestic emergency relating to the border, the public has an urgent right to know whether the President has a history of misrepresenting facts relating to the situation at the border, including the existence of the purported contract—and whether his asserted bases for the potential emergency are similarly false.”
According to the lawsuit, the ACLU of Massachusetts also submitted a public records request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency involved in federal contracting for the construction of physical barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Fort Worth district—designated to centrally process public records requests to the Corps of Engineers regarding the proposed border wall—conceded that it has “no records” concerning the contract referenced in the President’s announcement.
On January 14, 2019, DHS responded to ACLU of Massachusetts attorneys, stating that the ACLU request was “too broad in scope” and requesting that the ACLU of Massachusetts provide the specific contract numbers. The ACLU of Massachusetts replied and explained that a search of the Federal Procurement Database System website did not show any contract matching the description in the President’s Twitter announcement. The request was later assigned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for action; CBP has not provided any further response or any of the requested documents.
“Members of the public and their elected representatives need this information immediately to make an informed assessment of whether the President is providing false and untrustworthy information regarding the situation at the border,” said Dan McFadden, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The public is also entitled to understand whether this contract, if it exists, was issued in violation of the laws and regulations governing federal procurement, and whether the President is violating the U.S. Constitution by diverting funds appropriated for other purposes by Congress.”