Friday, December 17, 2010

Immigration Raids Lawsuit Upheld

Immigration Raids Lawsuit Upheld

by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 17, 2010 7:29 am

In their quest to hold immigration agents accountable for alleged constitutional violations during June 2007 raids in Fair Haven, 11 New Haven immigrants can take their case all the way to the top.
Federal Judge Stefan Underhill ruled Thursday that 11 plaintiffs in a civil rights suit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can hold the agency’s national director liable for the behavior of agents that entered apartments in Fair Haven. The judge denied a motion by the U.S. government that argued that ICE supervisors and higher-ups could not be held responsible for ground-level action.
Judge Underhill’s decision was part of a larger ruling (read it here) in response to several motions by the government, which sought to have the immigrants’ case derailed on a variety of grounds. While some of the government’s arguments were successful, the majority failed, according to Muneer Ahmad (pictured below), a Yale law professor representing the plaintiff immigrants.

Thomas MacMillan File Photo
Thomas MacMillan File Photo
The case stems from controversial ICE raids in the summer of 2007. The plaintiffs in the case, represented by lawyers and students from Yale Law School, claim that ICE agents entered their homes without permission and arrested them illegally, violating their 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendment rights. The 11 immigrant plaintiffs are suing the government as well as individual ICE agents. They also claim that the raids were a sort of punishment for New Haven issuance of the Elm City Resident ID Card, which is available to all New Haveners regardless of their immigration status.
ICE has declined to comment on the case in the past. A spokesperson was not available by press time.
Muneer Ahmad, a Yale law professor on the case, declared the judge’s ruling a victory. He said Judge Underhill upheld the majority of the case, while the government’s “aggressive” effort to dismiss the case was successful “only at the margins.”
“It’s a pretty sweeping decision on the part of the plaintiffs,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said the government had argued that immigrant law precludes the case from being heard. The court rejected that claim, he said.
It’s true that certain parts of immigration law limit the powers of courts to try ICE agents, Ahmad said. “But the court found that the argument the government made was overbroad.”
“That’s a really major decision by the court,” Ahmad said. It’s a very significant ruling on behalf of the rights of immigrants to make civil rights claims, he said.
“I think that other courts will pay attention to it, and I think that ICE will pay attention to it,” Ahmad said. “ICE has long maintained that it should have a kind of immunity from suit that other law enforcement officials don’t have.”
“Our hope is that this is the start of an accountability process for ICE and for the group of residents in Fair Haven,” Ahmad said.
The government has the option of appealing Underhill’s decision.

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