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Gilman v. Department of Homeland Security

Topic(s): Government Transparency – FOIA
Date Of Involvement: 03/11/2009

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Denise Gilman, a clinical law professor at the University of Texas and member of the UT Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall , submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in April, 2008 for records that would show where the fence would be built, including maps, surveys and appraisals of affected properties. She also requested information about the criteria for deciding where segments of the wall would be built and agency assessments of the impact of the wall on surrounding communities.

Despite initial indications that the agencies possessed volumes of records responsive to Gilman's request, the corps of engineers denied part of her request outright and released only a few documents with substantial redactions. DHS referred her entire request to CBP, which released only two redacted documents. In January 2009, CBP told Gilman that it was still processing her request, even though FOIA requires that agencies respond to requests within 20 working days.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Public Citizen asked the court to order the agencies to make the requested records available to Gilman. Over the following years, the agencies produced documents under a stipulated schedule. Professor Gilman and CBP then filed cross-motions for summary judgment regarding CBP’s production of email records. On March 14, 2014, the district court granted in part and denied in part both parties’ motions, holding that CBP had to release withheld names and addresses of people who owned property near the border and border wall, but could continue to withhold email attachments and records containing an assessment of the need for fencing in certain areas.