As of January 31, 2020, the Trump Administration has granted the designation of “security agency” to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This change in policy gives a level of secrecy to CBP by shielding a great deal of information from public scrutiny. As a result, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will no longer compel CBP to disclose the names of their officers and various other records. Up until now, only agencies like the FBI and Secret Service have relied on this designation to protect their records.
The Trump Administration moved to change CBP to a security agency after a Twitter account was posting information about CBP employees that typically is available through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM handles federal employee information, some of which is publicly available, including salary information. The Twitter account that triggered the change has since been suspended. The Trump Administration deemed the change necessary for the security and privacy of CBP employees. However, the change does not seem to have increased the authority of CBP in any way.
Advocates of government transparency see the move as troubling, as it is likely to make it more challenging to hold CBP accountable. Lawyers and others often rely on FOIA to get internal information that relates to policy changes and interpretation, even if the information is redacted. Now, FOIA requests directed to CBP are likely to be even more heavily redacted.
Furthermore, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union have increasingly questioned the secrecy now surrounding CBP after the agency allegedly compiled a list of primarily American attorneys, reporters, and advocates that border agents should stop for questioning at border checkpoints. Likewise, CBP might also have placed alerts on the passports of people on the list.
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 399-2311 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.