The ACLU of Maine filed a lawsuit last week in US District Court against the federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the agencies’ refusal to release public records regarding immigration raids on buses in Maine. The ACLU argues that the agencies ignored freedom of information requests for records of activity in Maine, including stopping and questioning Mainers boarding buses. The suit alleges that the federal government ignored the public records requests in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“The public has the right to know how immigration agents are operating in our state. Yet CBP has a long history of disregarding the law and ignoring public records requests,” said Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine, in a statement. “CBP claims the authority to question people, for any reason at all, within 100 miles of any national or coastal border. This zone encompasses the entirety of Maine. Allowing government agents to demand that we ‘show our papers’ any time they feel like it is a threat to our freedom and democracy.”

The ACLU filed a series of public records requests after the Portland Press Herald reported in January that U.S. Border Patrol agents blocked the door of a Concord Trailways bus as passengers lined up to get on in Bangor and began asking questions about their citizenship status. At the time, passenger Peter Homer told the Press Herald, “It’s sad to me that our country has turned into a police state where its citizens aren’t allowed to freely move around.”

The suit noted that CBP has stopped bus passengers in Maine multiple times and at bus stations across the country without warrants, reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In one incident back in January, CBP agents boarded a Greyhound bus in Florida and detained a woman who had overstayed a tourist visa. Following the incident, the ACLU of Maine joined other ACLU affiliates from across the country in signing a letter urging Greyhound to stop allowing CBP to conduct warrantless raids.

ACLU’s latest lawsuit seeks to force CBP to release its records pertaining to citizenship checkpoints and other operations in Maine, including its coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement.

“There is significant public interest in these records, as demonstrated by passengers and members of the public who have spoken up about CBP’s intrusive operations,” the lawsuit states. “Disclosure of the requested records would facilitate the public’s understanding of citizenship checks and other CBP operations in Maine. Such information is critical to the public’s ability to hold the government accountable.”