Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lawsuit In NJ Against Illegal ICE Immigration Raids Across NJ

As reported by Brian Donohue of The Star-Ledger on April 3, 2008 (Lawsuit claims immigration raids are unconstitutional), a lawsuit filed on April 3, 2008 challenges illegal pre-dawn raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) across New Jersey.

The lawsuit is filed by Seton Hall Law School's Center for Social Justice and the law firm Lowenstein Sandler. The lawsuit is titled Argueta v. Myers and was field in US District Court for the District of New Jersey. It is a civil rights lawsuit against federal and government officials for violating people's Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and New Jersey Constitutional rights. The lawsuit also targets officers of the Penns Grove, NJ police department.

The complaint alleges that:
  • Illegal raids are a predictable consequence of DHS's arbitrary, high quotas for arresting immigrants in a program that DHS calls Operation Return to Sender.
  • ICE regularly ignores the need to obtain a judicial warrant or to have probable cause before entering people's homes and doing dragnet searches.
  • There is a series of examples of illegal ICE searches of people's homes before dawn. Agents used at times deceit or raw force to enter, often ordering sleeping people including children out of bed and holding them without a judicial warrant or legal justification.
  • Some suffered physical abuse, verbal abuse, had guns pointed at them, or was forcibly stopped from calling a lawyer.
  • ICE statistics show as few as 33% of people arrested in Operation Return to Sender is actually a fugitive with a deportation order -- the large majority are so-called collateral arrests.
  • In one case, ICE actively sought to use deceit by having the Freehold Police Department come at 6am to a home where a family refused to open the door to ICE and asked for the local police to drive to the house and have a uniformed local police officer knock to trick them into opening the door.
  • Once anyone opens a door, ICE agents typically enter and sweep through the home, displaying or holding guns as if it were a drug sweep.
  • On January 29, 2008, in North Bergen, NJ, ICE agents tricked a landlord at 4:30am into thinking they were police searching for a criminal. Using that trick, a tenant opened her apartment and ICE agents searched the entire apartment without permission or legal justification. The tenant had legal immigration status and had the documents proving it had been approved and that an official work permit card would soon be coming. ICE agents threw aside the proof and ignored them -- also not taking a moment to confirm her legal status without basic immigration databases. ICE agents took away her passport and never returned it. They illegally arrested her and mockingly told her not to bother getting an attorney, mockingly singing a Latino song with her first name in the title. ICE kept her in detention and did not give her food or water until 24 hours after she was arrested. She was illegally arrested for around 36 hours. ICE agents took away her jewelry and never returned it.
  • On November 13, 2006, in Clifton, NJ, at 3am, ICE agents forced someone's home door open once they opened it slightly, shoved the resident away and illegally searched the home.
  • December 7, 2007, in Newark, NJ around 5:30am or 6am -- loud pounding on the door that seemed about to break the door down. The tenant opened the door before ICE broke it open and forced the door to stay open and detained people in the house without permission, a judicial warrant, or legal justification.
  • March 2007, Paterson, NJ, around 4am -- someone with legal permanent residence status awakened by shouts of "Paterson Police" that were lies yelled by ICE agents posing as police officers. The tenant opened the door to ask for a warrant and ICE agents illegally forced their way into the house and searched it without consent, permission, or legal justification.
  • August 2007, Hudson County, NJ, 6:30am -- ICE agents did not identify themselves while banging on the door and when a tenant opened the door to see who was outside, the ICE agents forced their way inside illegally and illegally interrogated people in their home. One of them was forcibly stopped from calling her attorney and then after brought to a jail, the jail staff blocked her from calling an attorney.
  • June 2007, Morris County, NJ, 6:45am -- ICE agents took out their guns, banged on a door, and forced their way in once the tenant opened the door to find out who was there. ICE agents illegally entered and searched the home. An ICE agent yelled at one of them who tried to call her lawyer. The ICE used abusive language -- yelling "F*** you" and "You are a piece of s***"
  • August 2006, Salem County, NJ, around 3am -- Penns Grove NJ police officers forced their way inside a home after the tenant opened the door to see who was there. ICE agents and local police all had their guns drawn while they illegally entered the home.
  • September 2007, Passaic County, NJ, around 5:30am -- around nine ICE agents forced their way illegally into a home after someone inside opened the door to see who was banging on the door. The ICE agents illegally searched the home and stopped everyone from leaving.
  • Nationwide pattern of illegal raids as seen in lawsuits in CT, NY, TN, CA, and GA.
Illegal searches by police or federal agents are always unacceptable. For years, immigration courts have turned a blind eye to illegal searches by frequently ruling that ICE can use illegally obtained evidence to deport people. With evidence of widespread illegal searches across NJ (and across the US), the courts must step up to protect basic Constitutional rights and prevent ICE from using illegally obtained evidence to deport people.

Also, the plaintiffs in this case deserved to have their cases heard and to have an opportunity to obtain damages to the full extent authorized by the law if they can prove that ICE and local police are blatantly and illegally violating people's basic Constitutional rights.

Lawyers involved in the case include Baher Azmy, Bassina Farbenblum, and Scott Michelman of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice and R. Scott Thompson, Scott L. Walker, and Heather Bishop of Lowenstein Sandler PC.

Stories include:
WNYC Radio story
Newark Star-Ledger story
Bergen Record story
New York Times story


At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is one sided propaganda. The allegations are lies and have been trumped up by over zealous half baked wanna be lawyers.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i too was a victim. in Jan. 2007 at 5am (ICE) came and Knocked on my parents door,has my father opened the door 6 man rushed in and ran throw the entire house with no respect for anyone,they ran into my room where my wife (pregnant) and i wore sleeping (6(ICE) man with no shame) polled me out and throw me in jail.
(416) 526 7643


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