ACLU v. ICE is a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking to reverse the government’s denial of a fee waiver to the ACLU/SC for a request for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s worksite immigration policies.

In June 2010, ICE raided the Terra Universal factory in Southern California, and unconstitutionally detained and arrested 43 workers on suspicion of immigration violations.  Because of ICE’s illegal tactics, and because the raid was a departure from the administration’s stated policy to target unscrupulous employers rather than workers, the ACLU/SC filed a FOIA request to gather information about the raid and ICE’s worksite enforcement policies.

The government responded to the request by denying a fee waiver to the ACLU/SC, claiming that the request was in the ACLU/SC’s “commercial interest.”  The FOIA “fee waiver” – which is available for requests made in the “public interest” -- is essential for the ACLU/SC and other nonprofits to be able to utilize FOIA and realize its promise of openness and transparency in government.  ICE’s denial was part of a growing trend of fee waivers denials to public interest advocacy organizations for FOIA requests on important topics like worksite immigration enforcement.  The ACLU/SC filed suit to put a stop to this disturbing trend, and to obtain critical information about how ICE conducts its immigration enforcement activities.

Case Developments

Oct 25, 2012
The Court granted-in-part the ACLU’s motion for summary judgment, finding that ICE’s efforts to search for responsive documents was inadequate and ordering ICE to redo its searches.

Mar 1, 2012
The ACLU filed a complaint against the government for declaratory and injunctive relief after Defendants agreed to grant its fee waiver request and alleged that the agencies had improperly failed to search for and produce documents responsive to its FOIA request. Read the complaint.

Dec 7, 2011
The ACLU filed suit against DHS and ICE alleging that it improperly denied its request for a fee waiver for the processing of its FOIA request for documents relating to the Terra Universal raid.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Jason Russell; Stacy Horth-Neubert; Jane Klinger

Date filed

February 29, 2012


United States District Court for the Central District of California


Hon. Otis D. Wright

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