Washington, D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies today to obtain information about the agencies’ warrantless use of global positioning system (GPS) devices to track vehicles entering the U.S.

In 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a landmark decision in U.S. v. Jones that such warrantless GPS tracking inside the U.S. is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) disclosed in court filings in 2018 that they used GPS devices without a warrant at the border, the federal judge overseeing the case extended the Supreme Court’s ban to include such searches at the border. EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks to uncover information and provide the public with details about the agencies’ policies and procedures for warrantless GPS tracking.

In United States v. Ignjatov, a criminal case in California, the court found that the practice of allowing agents to use GPS devices without a warrant rose to the level of government misconduct because it clearly violated the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision. There, government agents in Port Huron, Michigan, placed GPS devices on a truck without a warrant, tracked it for nearly two days, and arrested the drivers in California­—thousands of miles from the border where they entered. The government provided evidence that both ICE and CBP had policies allowing agents to use GPS devices without a warrant, and also submitted a declaration from an ICE official who stated the agency believed the policy was consistent with the Jones decision.

“Once again, ICE and CBP prove themselves to be rogue agencies by conducting searches that violate the Fourth Amendment and ignore Supreme Court precedent,” said EFF Staff Attorney Saira Hussain. “Let’s be clear: the Constitution still applies at the border.

“The public deserves to know when these searches began, if they are still allowed, and how they work. Our lawsuit seeks to uncover this information and shine a light on this outrageous practice,” said Hussain.

In a separate case against U.S. immigration agencies over warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at the border, EFF obtained documents and deposition testimony earlier this year revealing that CBP and ICE policies authorizing device searches were unconstitutionally broad and allowed government agencies to use the pretext of the border to make an end-run around the First and Fourth Amendments. EFF has asked a court to skip a trial and rule in favor of the 11 travelers who are plaintiffs.

For the FOIA complaint:

For more on border searches: