Beginning in October 2018, the government operation secretly tracked the movements and actions of humanitarian activists who provided aid to migrants, leading to the activists being harassed and detained at the border. In some cases, they were refused entry to Mexico or forced from that country if already there. The three plaintiffs include two lawyers who direct programs for the non-profit legal organization Al Otro Lado, and one documentary filmmaker whose foundation provides filmmaking tools and training to allow vulnerable communities to create their own narratives.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed a First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of the three humanitarians placed on a secret government watchlist for no other reason than their compassion.

The government program not only spied on them, but also put alerts on their passports leading to them being interrogated, detained, and in some cases refused entry at the border. This program remained secret until it was revealed in a series of investigative reports by NBC7 television news in San Diego. The program's database uncovered by the investigative journalists included not only dossiers but also, chillingly, photos of 59 humanitarian activists, journalists, and social medial influencers, including the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks that any information gathered by the government program on the plaintiffs be expunged and that an order is issued to cease spying on them.

Case Developments

October 20, 2023
Plaintiffs' filed a Petition for Panel Rehearing or Rehearing En Banc in response to the Ninth Circuit panel's Opinion. Read the Petition here.  

July 21, 2023
Opinion - The Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the government. Read the Opinion here.

December 16, 2022
Plaintiffs filed their Reply Brief in support of their appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Read the Reply Brief here. 

September 26, 2022
The Government filed their Answering Brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Read the Answering Brief here

May 27, 2022
Plaintiffs filed their Opening Brief in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, appealing the District Court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the Government. Read the Opening Brief here

March 9, 2020
The court ruled in the ACLU's favor and denied CBP's Motion to Dismiss. Read the Order here.

February 10, 2020
CBP replied to our Opposition to their Motion to Dismiss. Read the Reply here.

February 3, 2020
Read our opposition to the motion to dismiss.

December 16, 2019
CBP filed a partial motion to dismiss the first amended complaint. Read CBP's motion to dismiss.

December 2, 2019
ACLU SoCal and Kirkland & Ellis filed the first amended complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Read the complaint.

Date filed

July 23, 2019


United States District Court for the Central District of California



Case number