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Homeland Security Department Keeps Wraps on Border Security Plan

Two legal groups sue to get it under Freedom of Information Act.

In a new wrinkle in the ever-changing drama over securing the U.S. southern border, two nonprofit legal groups are suing the Homeland Security Department to obtain a copy of a congressionally mandated border protection risk plan that is still secret.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the transparency group American Oversight in an April 23 complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts said their aim is to use the Freedom of Information Act to shed light on the Trump administration’s controversial border policies.

The department’s plan—required to be submitted to Congress under a fiscal 2018 appropriations bill—was due in December, according to a February 2019 statement from the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. It was to explain how DHS’s proposed projects, such as “the use of personnel, fencing, other forms of tactical infrastructure and technology” are a high priority.

“President Trump has relied on border-based rhetoric to rally his political base and justify extreme immigration policies since Day 1, going so far as to declare a national emergency along the southern border, but the president has consistently failed to provide evidence to back up his claims,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “If the president’s emergency declaration was merely a crisis manufactured to serve political interests, the public should know.”

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, added, “The Trump administration has lied about border statistics and conditions, continued to push narratives that are proven false, and egregiously distorted realities in service of an unconstitutional and anti-immigrant agenda. The public has an urgent right to know whether the president has a history of misrepresenting facts relating to the situation at the border.”

DHS has rejected the attorneys’ requests for the document. DHS Press Secretary Tyler Houlton told Government Executive on Monday that he cannot comment on pending litigation per DHS policy.