In January 2010, Joaquin Navarro Hernandez, a member of the Congress of Day Laborers–an NDLON member in New Orleans–was unconstitutionally arrested and placed into deportation proceedings. Through this Freedom of Information lawsuit, Mr. Navarro sought to obtain documents related to his unconstitutional arrest and to CBP’s enforcement operations in New Orleans generally. At first, CBP first ignored his request. Then, after Mr. Navarro brought suit, it claimed that the requested information was confidential and exempt from disclosure.
The court disagreed. It found that the requested information was a matter “of substantial public interest in the City of New Orleans, where the plight of the large population of immigrant workers who have assisted in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina has been a matter of particular concern.” The court ordered CBP to disclose information about its collaboration with local law enforcement in New Orleans and its covert surveillance of day laborers. The court also recognized the substantial and important role workers’ centers play in promoting community oversight of key civil rights issues and in promoting democracy, including the leadership of the Congress of Day Laborers. Finally, the court ordered CBP to pay attorneys fees to NDLON and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, which represented Mr. Navarro Hernandez.