Friday, April 4, 2008

ICE Using Unconstitutional and Illegal Means in Raids

In what has become a common practice, agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") have again been accused of using unconstitutional and deceitful methods in carrying out raids. The raids are targetting so-called "immigration fugitives" which is an Orwellian method to demonize and target immigrants who fail to appear for their administrative hearings. Contrary to the dark overtones in the use of the term "fugitives," these people have not committed crimes. In fact a great many of them merely overstayed their visas, hardly a criminal offense. Nonetheless, ICE continues to target the most vulnerable in the immigrant communities using offensive tactics. According to Julia Preston, article in the April 4, 2008, New York Times:

Immigration agents systematically entered homes and made arrests without proper warrants during raids to round up immigration fugitives in New Jersey, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, brought by lawyers at the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, will provide a constitutional test of law enforcement methods often used by immigration agents since May 2006 when they began operations across the country to track down and deport immigrants who had been ordered to leave by the courts.

The suit, against officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, on behalf of 10 plaintiffs, including two United States citizens, contends that teams of ICE agents used “deceit or, in some cases, raw force” to gain “unlawful entry.”

These tactics are not confined to a rogue unit in New Jersey, they are operating procedure throughout the country. Nonetheless, the New Jersey lawsuit may set a precedent for challenging ICE's unlawful actions.

The lawsuit claims that agents, sometimes misrepresenting themselves as local police officers hunting for criminals, entered homes where no fugitives being sought were present and detained residents without showing any legal cause. Immigration agents have broad authority to question foreigners about their immigration status, but they may not enter a home without either a warrant or consent.

The ICE raids are part of a wholesale policy of denying civil liberties and civil rights protections to undocumented workers. In essence, the raids are part and parcel of the war of attrition that nativists are pushing against Latinos and other vulnerable communities.

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