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Aguilar, et al. v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), et al.

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Synopsis

Aguilar, et al. v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, et al. is a federal lawsuit filed by Latino men, women and children to challenge ICE’s policy of warrantless and discriminatory home raids throughout New York State.   Plaintiffs seek damages as well as injunctive relief.  The case names as defendants Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, ICE Director John Morton, dozens of individual immigration agents and their supervisors, and ICE itself

Status

On April 4, 2013, the Court endorsed the parties' settlement providing for ICE to pay our 22 plaintiffs $1 million in damages and fees; to provide national policy and training memoranda regarding the manner in which ICE conducts home operations; and to provide immigration benefits for several plaintiffs.

Description

In 2006 and 2007, immigrant and Latino communities all over the country started reporting a chilling pattern:  multiple teams of heavily armed agents surrounding their homes in the pre-dawn hours, pounding on doors and windows, and demanding or forcing entry. Once inside, ICE teams swept through the homes, corralled all those present in a central location and interrogated residents about their immigration status.  ICE did not possess judicial warrants for these operations.  Although purportedly searching not for criminal suspects but for specific individual civil immigration violators, they would detain and arrest numerous “collaterals”, even if the person ICE claimed to be seeking was unknown to the residents of the home.  Latinos, including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and very young children, bore the brunt of these practices.

In September 2007, two dozen Latino citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others brought suit against ICE and its agents in the Southern District of New York, alleging widespread Fourth Amendment violations and seeking damages and injunctive relief.  The lead plaintiff, Adriana Aguilar, had been sleeping in the East Hampton home she shared with her parents, siblings and children – all of whom are U.S. citizens – when ICE agents pounded on the doors, demanded entry, and swept through home, pulling the covers off the bed she slept in and terrorizing her children.  Family members asked to see a warrant; ICE did not show one.  Plaintiffs residing in three additional homes in Westchester and Long Island joined as plaintiffs.

Four days after plaintiffs filed suit, ICE began a week-long warrantless operation in Long Island purportedly to arrest civil immigration violators who ICE claimed to be gang members.  Large teams of agents armed with heavy tactical gear surrounded homes, forced or demanded entry, detained residents, including young children, within, and in many cases caused visible property damage.  ICE arrested hundreds of men, only 7% of whom were the original targets and almost none of whom were identified by local police as gang members.  While local law enforcement agencies initially collaborated with ICE, after two days the Nassau County Police Department withdrew from the operations and its Commissioner publicly denounced the operations for what local officers believed was a pattern of racial profiling of Latinos and Fourth Amendment violations.   Several more plaintiff families joined the lawsuit, including several plaintiffs who despite their lawful status had been handcuffed in their homes prior to being asked a single question and a young girl who opened the door of her family home after agents shouted that someone was “dying” inside.  One family of U.S. citizens joined the lawsuit after their home was raided twice; both times, ICE purportedly sought the same civil immigration violator, a man unknown to the family. 

From the outset of the litigation, ICE conceded lacking warrants or exigent circumstances to justify entering or searching homes, but claimed to have obtained consent to enter and search during these operations.  Over the next three years, both parties took more than 100 depositions of agents, local officers, plaintiffs, witnesses and experts and engaged in protracted discovery battles.  Discovery revealed not only that that ICE agents conducted so-called consensual home raids in a manner that violated decades of Supreme Court precedent requiring valid, duress-free but also targeted and arrested Latinos without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Plaintiffs amended their complaint to add allegations of Fifth Amendment violations as well as claims against individual defendants Michael Chertoff, DHS Secretary; Julie Myers; ICE Director; and John Torres and Marcy Forman, directors of the branches of ICE responsible for the home raid operations.

ICE’s enforcement practices have long been hidden from scrutiny, because many of their targets and “collateral” arrestees are deported or are otherwise unable to obtain counsel to vindicate their rights in court.  Plaintiffs have been working closely with community advocates to hold ICE accountable for its unlawful practices, which ICE continues to insist remain in force.

Timeline

September 20, 2007: Plaintiffs file a class action suit against ICE, alleging widespread Fourth Amendment violations and seeking damage and injunctive relief. 
 

December 21, 2009:  Plaintiffs file Fourth Amended Complaint, adding Fifth Amendment claims and Bivens claims against high-ranking officials.

March 29, 2010:  In the wake of Iqbal v. Ashcroft, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Bivens claims against then-Secretary of DHS Michael Chertoff, then-Director of ICE Julie Myers, and the directors of the two branches of ICE responsible for planning and implementing home raids, John Torres and Marcy Forman.  
 

May 19, 2010:  Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief.
 

December 22, 2010:  Plaintiffs move to certify a class of Latinos in the New York area who have been or could be victims to ICE’s ongoing policies and practices of violating the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
 

August 1, 2011: Judge Koeltl denied Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief, holding that Plaintiffs had adequately alleged a policy, pattern and practice of Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations against Latinos in New York.   Judge Koeltl also dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims against Michael Chertoff and Julie Myers, but ruled that Plaintiffs’ Bivens claims against John Torres and Marcy Forman could go forward.  
 

September 22, 2011:  Directed to re-file their motion for class certification in light of the Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, Plaintiffs again to certify a class for injunctive relief claims. 
 

April 16, 2012:  Judge Katherine Forrest, to whom the case had been transferred, denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. 
 

July 13, 2012:  The Second Court denies Plaintiffs’ Rule 23(f) petition for leave to appeal the denial of class certification prior.
 

April 30, 2012:   Judge Forrest denied Motions for Partial Summary Judgment filed by both parties.

October 22, 2012:  Scheduled trial date, currently adjourned for thirty days.

Attached Files