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Skylight Sues Customs and Border Protection to Release Records of Militarized Raids on Humanitarian Aid Station

Skylight and the American Immigration Council (AIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to compel the government to release documentation of three raids on a humanitarian aid station in the deadly desert in Southern Arizona. We filed suit after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) failed to respond to a FOIA request for these records.

CBP launched military-style raids on a camp where volunteers provide humanitarian aid. Two raids occurred in close succession, on July 31, 2020, and October 5, 2020. A similar raid occurred in 2017. No More Deaths/No Más Muertes runs the station, which is part of the organization’s work to end death and suffering in the Mexico–US borderlands.

Why are we doing this? No More Deaths is one of the organizations we profile in our forthcoming feature documentary Borderland. And the military tactics and timing of CBP’s raids raise serious concerns and questions. Agents, including those from CBP’s paramilitary arm Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), wore tactical gear, used helicopters, and appeared at the camp in armored vehicles. In each instance, CBP took people into custody who were receiving medical treatment and aid. Agents promoted their actions on social media and there is evidence CBP recorded the raids.

Given the concerning history of CBP enforcement actions on the southern border and the potential retaliatory nature of these raids, it is vital that CBP disclose information about its actions.

The FOIA request filed by the Council and Skylight in October 2020 asked for the following records:

  • Video and other media CBP officials recorded during CBP’s raids of the No More Deaths aid station in June 2017, July 2020, and October 2020.
  • Communication among agency officials before and after the raids.
  • Search warrants obtained in advance of the raids.

Skylight and the American Immigration Council filed this lawsuit in District Court for the Eastern District of New York, with assistance from Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

Here is the full downloadable (PDF) complaint:

Featured image: Screenshot of Border Patrol from our forthcoming feature film, BORDERLAND.

Pamela Yates

Pamela Yates is a an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder/Creative Director of Skylight Pictures, a company dedicated to creating feature length documentary films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice by implementing multi-year outreach campaigns designed to engage, educate and activate social change.

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