Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sent a letter Friday to President Donald Trump and top-level cabinet members, announcing his intent to file a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the government’s detention of people at LAX.
Feuer’s letter was also addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan and Mitchell Merriam, area port director of Los Angeles International Airport.
“Prompted by reports that visa and green card holders were detained or denied entry at LAX, I sought to intervene with federal officials at our airport on January 28. I was stonewalled — even re: whether federal employees were complying with a court order. I was promised a high-ranking federal official would contact me on January 29. To date, no contact,” Feuer wrote.
“Last week I sent you (a) letter seeking answers regarding the unlawful treatment of legal immigrants at LAX. Again, no response. Outrageous,” the letter states. “Now reports indicate LAX detainees suffered deplorable conditions — little or no food or water for hours. As L.A.’s chief lawyer and prosecutor, my next step will be a FOIA request. Enough stonewalling. Enough obfuscation. We are not going away.”
Feuer also sent a letter to federal officials on Feb. 3 seeking information after he went to LAX following reports that hundreds of people, including those with valid green cards and work visas, were being detained or deported.
Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order halted immigration from seven Muslim- majority countries but key parts were blocked by a federal judge on Feb. 3. On Thursday, a three-justice panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the judge’s ruling, and the issue may now end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jennie Pasquarell told a City Council committee that Customs and Border Patrol agents at LAX deprived some detainees of food and water, solicited bribes and confiscated people’s cell phones. Pasquarell said the ACLU had been in contact with 329 people who had been detained or their relatives.
Feuer’s letter from Feb. 3, addressed to Merriam, Kelly and McAleenan, asked the federal government to provide him with the name of each person who was bound for, or landed at, LAX from Jan. 27 through that day from the seven countries, the name of each traveler detained because of the executive order, and the names of any travelers who had been removed from the U.S. at LAX voluntarily or involuntarily.
The letter also requested dates and times and final destinations for any traveler who was removed, and if any continued to be detailed.
The letter also described how Feuer went to LAX on Jan. 28 to find out about the detainees but was rebuffed by Merriam.
“In addition, despite my law enforcement role, Mr. Merriam prevented me from gaining access to the portion of the airport controlled by (Customs), so I could assess for myself whether anyone was under detention,” Feuer wrote.
Merriam did not respond to a request to comment.
The White House has defended Trump’s order as a national security effort aimed at securing the country’s borders.
“Coming into this country is still a privilege,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week. “We’re the greatest country on Earth. Being able to come to America is a privilege, not a right. And it is our duty and it’s the president’s goal to make sure that everybody who comes into this country — to the best of our ability — is here because they want to enjoy this country and come in peacefully.”
–City News Service