The ACLU SoCal filed suit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security for not fulfilling a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, originally filed in September 2018, seeking information on their collaboration with Union Pacific Railroad Police.

Union Pacific Railroad Police has formed a shadowy alliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop, arrest, and detain individuals who are then transferred to ICE facilities for deportation.

These railroad police officer actions — often rooted in racial profiling in violation of constitutional rights — separate families, harm communities, and prey upon people who are homeless. In many cases, the individuals arrested by the officers are held beyond the time they otherwise would have been released just so they could be picked up by ICE — a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, the Western State College of Law Immigration Clinic, Public Counsel, and the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project.

"The public has a right to know more about ICE and the Union Pacific Railroad Police's efforts to collude to increase deportations and immigration detention, which harm immigrant communities and undermine public safety," said Jennifer Lee Koh, professor of law and director of the Western State College of Law Immigration Clinic.

The lawsuit details several instances of the Union Pacific Railroad Police collaborating with ICE.

Examples include:

  • January 2018: A man riding his bicycle home from work along the San Gabriel River Trail in El Monte was stopped by an armed Union Pacific Railroad Police officer and asked if he had "papeles" (papers, in Spanish) to work in the U.S. The man was held there under a railroad bridge for about two hours until he could be picked up by ICE officers.
  • February 2018: A woman who was homeless was riding her bike in the Van Nuys area outside of Union Pacific Railroad property when she was stopped by an armed railroad police officer. She was held for about two hours until ICE officers arrived and took her into custody. During that time she was never read her rights under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Other incidents detailed in the documents occurred in Santa Ana, North Hollywood, Pacoima, and Whittier.

Case Developments

July 27, 2020
A settlement agreement has been filed and the Union Pacific Railroad Police has agreed to break off its collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE agrees to pay $15,000 in fees, and the lawsuit is dismissed.

Union Pacific Railroad has enacted a new policy that prohibits officers from:

  • Using suspected immigration status as a factor in determining whether to confront, detain, or arrest a person.
  • Asking about immigration status.
  • Ordering a person to produce immigration documents.
  • Initiating contact with a federal immigration agency to report a person.

The new policy also says that the railroad police “shall decline to participate in any joint law enforcement task force the sole purpose of which is to identify, detain, or deport” people who are undocumented. Additionally, the new policy says the railroad police “should not act on immigration-related federal agency detainers or similar requests not signed by a federal judge.”

Read the Union Pacific Railroad General Order – California Operations - Immigration Status.

March 20, 2019
The action was filed under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 for declaratory and injucntive relief. Read the complaint.


Date filed

March 20, 2019


United States District Court, Central District of California


Hon. Christina A. Snyder



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