Media Contact

Sam Petto, ACLU of Nebraska Communications Director

December 27, 2022

Dozens of detainees were held in a tent the night following the raid. Photo courtesy José Jiménez.

LINCOLN, Neb. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska is declaring victory as it dismisses a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG). The civil rights organization says its lawsuit, which argued that federal officials were unlawfully ignoring a Freedom of Information Act request, prompted officials to provide the requested documents.

The ACLU of Nebraska filed a court motion late Friday to dismiss the case and accept a stipulated amount of attorney's fees.

The information request focused on an OIG investigation into whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents violated the rights of people they detained during a 2018 immigration raid in and nearby O’Neill, Nebraska. Authorities took 133 people into custody in a raid based on warrants for 17 people. At the time, the ACLU of Nebraska criticized the operation for reported failures to provide adequate food, water, shelter and language interpretation services.

The civil rights organization said DHS officials first promised a timely response to a public records request, then cut off contact. 

The ACLU of Nebraska sued this August and federal officials turned over 77 pages of partially redacted documents in late September. Those documents are now available on the ACLU of Nebraska’s website

The provided records include memos of interviews with ICE agents and immigrants who had been detained, showing differences in perspectives on agents’ behavior and conditions of confinement. Ultimately, the OIG found concerns of civil rights violations were unsubstantiated, a position the ACLU of Nebraska contends.

Jane Seu, an ACLU of Nebraska attorney, said it should not have taken a lawsuit for the public to access the documents related to the investigation

“We are glad to finally have this information on what the investigative process into the O’Neill raid looked like, and those details certainly raise new questions,” Seu said. “One of our attorneys facilitated interviews for this investigation and heard firsthand of the emotional and physical impact the raid had on workers. It is deeply troubling to see those concerns essentially met with a shrug in the OIG’s finding. Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that this information always belonged to the public and should have been made public years ago. As we continue our work toward increased accountability, we hope this victory sends a message to both federal and state government employees: you have an obligation to comply with the federal Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws and if you ignore our requests, we will see you in court.”