Following a slew of lawsuits nationwide accusing immigration officials of violating constitutional rights when they conduct raids on private residences, federal authorities have agreed to establish new policies governing the conduct of immigration officers during raids, including restrictions on how and when agents can enter private homes.
These invasive raids have long been a source of widespread anger, frustration and anxiety among immigrants. Many of them have accused immigration agents of overly aggressive tactics. Upon knocking on the doors of the homes, these agents will often simply identify themselves as “police,” prompting some people to open their doors, believing that the agents were local law enforcement. But ICE agents are enforcing immigration laws, which are in the civil realm — not criminal.
A Federal District Court judge approved the new rules included in a settlement. This concludes a six-year-old class-action lawsuit contending that in eight raids in 2006 and 2007, ICE agents forced their way into the homes of Latino families without court warrants or other legal justification.
The plaintiffs in the suit contended that during the raids, armed agents surrounded their homes in the predawn hours, pounded on windows and shouted orders to open up. When occupants opened the doors, the plaintiffs contended, the agents barged inside — in at least one instance with guns drawn — then swept through the homes, corralling occupants for interrogations. Other suits have said agents gained access into private residences saying they were looking for a person who did not live at the location, and then proceeded to ask people living there for proof of their legal status.
Law enforcement agents without a judicial warrant are permitted to enter a home only under certain conditions, including if they receive consent. A central point of contention in the case was what constituted valid consent.
According to the settlement, immigration agents needing consent to enter a private residence will now have to seek permission in a language spoken by the resident “whenever feasible.” Agents must also get consent from residents to enter the yards and other private outside areas adjoining their homes. Under the settlement, agents are forbidden from conducting protective sweeps through the homes without “a reasonable, articulable suspicion of danger.”
The settlement essentially means that agents will no longer have “carte blanche” to invade the homes of immigrants, especially Latino immigrants, and be as abusive as they want without fear they will be reprimanded.
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