Immigration Raids Lawsuit Upheld
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.
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.