DETROIT (AP) — Michigan-based immigrant and civil rights groups sued the U.S. government Wednesday, arguing that the zone in which border agents can conduct warrantless searches to prevent illegal entry is too broad.
The federal lawsuit filed by the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan seeks specifics of and justification for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection policies. Border agents are empowered to check anyone within 100 miles of an international border, but the lawsuit says the agency considers the entire state of Michigan to be within 100 miles of the Canadian border or one of the Great Lakes, which function as international borders.
Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes, though Lake Michigan is not on the international border. Many parts of the state technically are more than 100 miles from Canada.
"Under this interpretation CBP agents patrolling the 'border' could potentially subject anyone in Michigan — regardless of where he or she is within the state — to warrantless detention and search," the lawsuit says.
Border officials declined comment, citing "pending litigation," though federal authorities have said checkpoints elsewhere within the nation's 100-mile border zone are crucial to catching human and drug smugglers who cross illegally into the U.S.
Federal authorities say the checkpoints on highways and small roads north of the U.S.-Mexico border are vital to catching immigration violations.
The advocacy organizations say documents received through public requests were "heavily redacted" and don't answer key questions, including where and how far from the border stops occur and why agents are stopping many people who are in the U.S. lawfully.
According to the lawsuit, data logs that were obtained show nearly one-third of people processed by border agents in the Detroit Sector, which includes Michigan and parts of Ohio, are U.S. citizens, and roughly 40 percent are either citizens or lawfully in the country. Fewer than 2 percent of foreign citizens who were stopped have a criminal record, the logs indicate.
The ACLU has sued the government in other areas along the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico, including Arizona and Washington state. Those lawsuits involve claims of racial profiling.