Yale University Law School’s Human Rights Clinic sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court Tuesday, seeking records of a nearly secret program of the agency’s immigration arm known as “Operation Front Line.“The program, overseen by the Office of Investigations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is listed as funded under the 2007, $1.3 billion ICE investigations budget, but no details about its scope or costs are public. A one-line description in 2007 budget papers reads that it addresses “potential vulnerabilities in immigration and trade systems relative to the national security of the United States, ” according to legal papers filed in the suit. Yale seeks an order compelling ICE to disclose the records, which it requested from the agency in October under the Freedom of Information Act. Click here to read the lawsuit.

ICE spokewoman Jamie Zuieback said that Operation Front Line “was carried out as part of a government-wide security plan in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election and through the 2005 presidential. inauguration. It focused on immigration violators that may have posed an enhanced public safety or national security threat. Race, religion or ethinicity were not criteria used in identifying or arresting the violators. The arrests were predicated on violations of immigration law. All aliens apprehended in the initiative were afforded an opportunity for administrative review of their cases.“Asked about the cost of the program, the criteria used for arrest, whether arrests increased during this period or had a geographic focus, whether the arrests were all on US soil and whether someone from ICE would be willing to talk more about the program, Zuiback responded that her statement was the only information she was issuing.