Search and Seizure Procedures and Your Rights

In advance of a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is preparing to bring against the United States government, the agency recently initiated a dialogue with various federal agencies about their criteria for searching electronic devices at the border.

During the meeting, which was held under-oath, representatives from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed search and seizure practices the ACLU believes may violate immigration laws.

Current law gives federal officials with CBP and ICE the right to inspect and confiscate mobile phones, laptops, and other electronic devices from individuals who they suspect are entering the country unlawfully. The ACLU claims many of these searches are arbitrary, without warrant, and in violation of constitutional speech and privacy protections.

Are Search and Seizures Unconstitutional?

Law enforcement officials stress the importance of performing searches for multiples reasons, including ongoing investigations and to gather identifying information about a device’s owner. The ACLU believes these searches go beyond the scope of federal immigration agency jurisdiction.

The ACLU claims that inconsistent and unwarranted searches and seizures of immigrants’ devices at the border violates their First Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech and of the press. They make this claim based on the fact that those who expect to be searched may self-censor their electronic communication. Additionally, many of those subjected to search and seizure are journalists, a conflict they believe blatantly interferes with freedom of the press.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Noting that tablets, cell phones, and other devices generally contain personal data, the ACLU believes warrants should be required for searches of this sort.

The Future of Border Search and Seizures

As part of the lawsuit fighting search and seizures at the border, the ACLU has asked a judge to skip a trial and rule in favor of its clients. They represent U.S. citizens who have been subjected to unreasonable search and seizure. The ACLU wants to require law enforcement officials to obtain warrants to search all electronic devices.

Foreign-born individuals seeking entry into the United States may not be aware of the protections they have under the Constitution. As the ACLU seeks to crack down on the CBP and ICE overreaching when it comes to the search and seizure of personal electronic devices, the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are working tirelessly to protect clients and their civil rights.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Represent Clients Violated by Unreasonable Searches

If you or a loved one has been subjected to unreasonable search and seizure of your cell phone or computer, trust the dedicated and experienced immigration attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. to advocate for you. We will work to determine if the search was a violation of your rights and act to resolve your immigration matter as quickly as possible.

To discuss your situation with a multilingual Philadelphia immigration lawyer, call 215-925-4435 or contact us online. Located in Center City Philadelphia, we work with clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania and nationwide.