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Civil Rights Groups Sue ICE Over Refusing FOIA Requests

A massive raid that was planned for September, known as "Operation Mega," targeted more than 8,000 undocumented immigrants across the country. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A massive raid that was planned for September, known as "Operation Mega," targeted more than 8,000 undocumented immigrants across the country. (John Moore/Getty Images)
November 15, 2017

SEATTLE -- Here in Washington and across the nation, civil rights and immigrants' advocacy groups are suing over the federal government's refusal to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request about a recently planned immigration raid.

In September, immigrant groups obtained details of "Operation Mega," which internal documents said would be the "largest raid in U.S. history." After it became public, more than 200 groups nationwide filed FOIA requests about it with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The requests were denied.

Maru Mora Villalpando is an organizer with Northwest Detention Center Resistance, which has joined the lawsuit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security.

"We feel that filing this lawsuit is the only way for us to actually get information to expose the agencies for the way they act in our communities, how they target our communities, and how they're planning on really just continue terrorizing our immigrant communities throughout the nation,” Villalpando said.

She said the groups learned Operation Mega intended to target more than 8,000 undocumented immigrants over five days. It was to take place in mid-September, but was cancelled due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

ICE said it cannot comment on pending litigation.

Danny Cendejas is organizing director with Detention Watch Network, which has also joined the lawsuit against ICE and DHS. He said the timing of this raid was suspicious because the fiscal year was running out and funding for the agencies was coming up again in Congress.

Cendejas had hoped records obtained from the FOIA request would clear this up.

"From what we can tell, this was being used as sort of leverage on ICE's part to come to Congress and demand more funding for the detention/deportation 'machine,' by saying that they just detained thousands of people and filling up detention spaces,” Candejas said.

He said the best defense against raids is for immigrants to organize, but he thinks this lawsuit could be valuable for shedding light on ICE practices.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA