Fighting Back Against Excessive Use of Force by Immigration Agents

Immigration officials and agents do an important job, enforcing immigration laws and keeping both immigrants and US residents safe. These officials have a challenging job, and most work hard to do the best job possible to enforce laws and keep everyone safe. However, there have been some worrying claims about use of excessive force by immigration agents and officials.

A recent lawsuit win highlights some of these concerns. A court has granted eleven men a $350,000 settlement from government and has agreed to stop deportation proceedings in their cases after the men alleged that raids on their homes violated their rights. The raids were carried out in 2007 on a New Haven community known for its Latino population. The raids occurred one day after the community started issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denies that the raids were a reprisal against the ID program.

However, the court decision is the first to offer immigration concessions as well as financial settlements for residential immigration raids. It also represents the largest settlement offered in this type of case. Representatives for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have stated that the settlement is to help save tax dollars and time but does not represent any guilt or admissions of liability.

In court, the eleven men involved in the lawsuit said that a total of 30 people in their community were arrested as part of the 2007 raids. The men also claimed that the actions of immigration agents were retaliatory and excessive. Plaintiffs testified that officials drew weapons and herded families, including small children out of their beds and homes during the raid. Attorneys for the plaintiffs also argued that immigration officials also incorrectly targeted the plaintiffs solely because they had a Latino appearance.

A federal judge Michael Straus deemed in 2009 that immigration agents violate the rights of four people in the raids because agents when into homes with probable cause and without warrants. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has praised the rulings, saying that the legal victory targets unfair and problematic immigration policies. DeStefano has instituted a number of policies that have raised some controversy and have also won him praise. In addition to the ID program, he has banned police from asking individuals about immigration status and has fought to get noncitizens and illegal immigrants some voting rights. In addition, he has spoken out against the Secure Communities initiative, which checks the fingerprints on inmates against immigration databases.