The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today sued the Department of Homeland Security to compel the release of a border security plan submitted by the Department to Congress. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, aims to shed light on the Trump administration’s actual border security priorities.
“President Trump has relied on border-based rhetoric to rally his political base and justify extreme immigration policies since day one, going so far as to declare a national emergency along the southern border – but the president has consistently failed to provide evidence to back up his claims,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “If the president’s emergency declaration was merely a crisis manufactured to serve political interests, the public should know.”
“The Trump administration has lied about border statistics and conditions, continued to push narratives that are proven false, and egregiously distorted realities in service of an unconstitutional and anti-immigrant agenda,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The public has an urgent right to know whether the President has a history of misrepresenting facts relating to the situation at the border.”
Under the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for 2018, DHS was required to submit a risk-based plan to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. Among other requirements, the Act directs DHS to explain how its proposed projects, such as “the use of personnel, fencing, other forms of tactical infrastructure, and technology” will “address the highest priority border security needs.”
DHS reportedly delivered its plan to Congress in December 2018, but the document has not been made public.
After shutting down the federal government for more than a month over border wall funding, President Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 to fund border construction without congressional approval. The administration has since shifted at least $1 billion from the Pentagon’s budget to fund fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In March 2019, American Oversight and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the border security plan. Today’s suit comes after DHS failed to provide records in response to the groups’ request.