August 18, 2018
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In wake of Somali man’s arrest in Portland court, ACLU sues for immigration enforcement records

By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:

Northern New England chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the federal government for records related to controversial actions by immigration and border agents.

On Tuesday, the ACLU affiliates in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont said they filed a federal public records lawsuit to obtain documents related to immigration enforcement in the region, which has ramped up and become more aggressive under President Donald Trump.

The suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its immigration enforcement and border security arms follows a year that saw immigration arrests increase across New England and the country. It is the latest in a series of local and national legal challenges by the ACLU to federal immigration officials.

Filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine, the suit comes as a response to tactics previously unseen here, including the first known arrest of an immigrant inside a Maine courthouse last year.

[Arrests of immigrants without criminal records triple in New England under Trump]

In April 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a Somali man in the Cumberland County Court, where he’d come to plead not guilty to a drunken driving charge. Many members of the Maine legal community, including the ACLU, decried the arrest of Abdi Ali as threatening the working of the justice system.

The arrest was one of a number of incidents that led the ACLU chapters to file a Freedom of Information Act request last year for a broad swath of federal records and communication related to immigration actions in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection broke the law by failing to fully respond to the request, the lawsuit claims.

Spokespersons for Customs and Border Protection and ICE said it is their agencies’ policies not to comment on pending litigation. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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