Tuesday, June 09, 2009

IJ Straus Grants Yale Law School Suppression Motions Due To Illegal Home Raids

In a series of rulings on June 1, 2009 and June 2, 2009, Immigration Judge Michael J. Straus in Hartford, Connecticut Immigration Court granted suppression motions filed by Michael Wishnie and others at Yale Law School. The Yale Law School team included, among others, supervising attorneys Hope Metcalf and Chris Lasch along with law students Bram Elias, Stella Burch Elias, Sara Edelstein, Nichole Hallett, Dale Kotchka-Smith, Jane Lewis, Deborah Marcuse, and Anant Saraswat!

The decisions reinforce that illegal entry without consent, a warrant, or probable cause in the early morning into someone's private home is an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment that requires suppressing all of the evidence in immigration court that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) obtains from the illegal search.

There was no warrant issued by any judge in the searches. There was no probable cause because ICE officers barged in without asking any initial questions. There also was no consent despite the attempt by ICE to convince the IJ that there supposedly had been consent given. The IJ concluded that ICE officers knocked on doors and when someone inside opened the door a little bit, ICE officers pushed their way in through the open door. Opening a door is never consent to enter a search a home. This view is well-settled in criminal law and the Ninth Circuit reconfirmed it as recently as last year in granting the suppression motion in an immigration court case in Lopez-Rodriguez v. Mukasey, 536 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2008).

Other significant rulings were that the IJ considered ICE's proof to be unconvincing in large part because ICE refused to provide live testimony from anyone who was involved in the raid, instead trying to rely on minimal written statements by some of the people involved.

Also, the IJ refused to allow ICE to submit additional evidence after the evidentiary deadline passed and the respondent finished testifying. In addition, the IJ noted that ICE failed to offer proof that the additional evidence was obtained through grounds independent from the contested seizure, arrest, and detention of the respondent.

The IJ ruled that exclusion of evidence applies to anything that is the fruit of the poisonous tree, regardless of whether ICE acted with an explicit illicit purpose in gathering evidence to exploit the illegal arrest.

The IJ also concluded that identity evidence can be suppressed in immigration court, following cases such as United States v. Olivares-Rangel, 458 F.3d 1104, 1115 (10th Cir. 2006); United States v. Guevara-Martinez, 262 F.3d 751, 754 (8th Cir. 2001); United States v. Oscar-Torres, 506 F.3d 224, 228 (4th Cir. 2007) -- the Supreme Court's explanation of a rule known as the Ker-Frisbie doctrine and how in Lopez-Mendoza, the Supreme Court deemed the immigrant who objected to the government's evidence as having a more substantial claim.

The rulings were covered by the New Haven Independent on June 8, 2009 in a story "ICE Cases Melt Away" by Thomas MacMillan and by the Associated Press on June 8, 2009 in a story "Illegal Immigrants' Rights Were Violated, Judge Says."


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