August 5, 2014, New York – Today, rights groups filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to comply with Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding home raids conducted as part of immigration enforcement. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the case on behalf of the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) and is also a plaintiff in the case. Arrests of individuals in residential homes for civil immigration violations were the subject of widespread controversy during the Bush administration and have continued throughout Obama’s presidency. Victims of the home raids have reported serious civil and human rights abuses (including race-based and retaliatory raids); courts have found evidence of “egregious” Fourth Amendment violations; and ICE has entered into expensive settlements to resolve lawsuits alleging widespread misconduct during home raids. The case seeks information on the policies and decisions that inform the current raids.
“These raids implicate individual liberties, privacy concerns, and policy discussions, yet there is virtually no publicly available information about them,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Ghita Schwarz. “We need records and documents about policies and decision-making to understand the impact of home raids on communities and the extent to which constitutional violations occur and are reported or investigated. For there to be any hope for accountability, there must be transparency.”
Home raids are typically conducted without judicial warrants, and often involve heavily armed agents entering people’s homes in the middle of the night. Unlawful entry, damage to property, use of racial slurs, and threats to arrest U.S. children if they do not disclose the location of their parents have been reported. ICE has executed indiscriminate roundups of undocumented citizens with no criminal or removal histories, targeted longtime greencard holders, questioned and detained family members and bystanders, and, in some cases, removed everyone in a home even though the occupants had no connection to or knowledge of the individual ICE sought.
“With growing national resistance to a detention and deportation machine that has deported over two million people under the Obama administration,” said Immigrant Defense Project Co-Executive Director Alisa Wellek, “we have unfortunately seen Immigration and Customs Enforcement turn to even more brutal measures, such as armed immigration officers terrifying and threatening families in their homes in the middle of the night. Our communities need to understand how decisions about these invasive tactics are made in order to respond to them.”
Public information is not available regarding who is targeted for home raids and how those individuals are selected; how many individuals have been apprehended, arrested, and/or detained from home raids; how often constitutional violations occur during the raids; what ICE’s guidelines and practices for monitoring and enforcement of constitutional compliance are; and whether there have been investigations into misconduct during home raids. The FOIA requests seek records from January 20, 2009 to the present related to the policies, procedures, and objectives of, as well as data and statistics regarding, immigration home raids. In the ten months since the initial request was filed, DHS has produced only 26 heavily redacted pages from a single office, and ICE has not turned over any documents.
Said HICA Executive Director Isabel Rubio, “Alabama immigrants have bravely challenged ICE’s actions in our communities, and they deserve to know how ICE operates and how it responds to claims of constitutional violations.”
The Immigrant Defense Project promotes fundamental fairness for immigrants accused or convicted of crimes. IDP seeks to minimize the harsh and disproportionate immigration consequences of contact with the criminal justice system by 1) working to transform unjust deportation laws and policies and 2) educating and advising immigrants, their criminal defenders, and other advocates.
The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the social, civic and economic integration of Hispanic families and individuals in Alabama. ¡HICA! engages and empowers Alabama’s Hispanic community and its numerous cultures as an economic and civic integrator, social resource connector, and statewide educator.