When residents asked Nashville Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and police officers to show a warrant when they were forcing their way into their apartment complex last week, one agent reportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE.” Then, gesturing to his genitals, the officer reportedly said “the warrant is coming out of my balls.”
The ACLU of Tennessee filed a lawsuit on behalf of the fifteen residents, targets of an unlawful immigration raid. The Fourth Amendment strictly prohibits warrantless raids on private homes — for both citizens and non-citizens.
The lawsuit points out that:
“In the absence of a judicially authorized warrant, there must be voluntary and knowing consent; ICE officers forcing themselves into someone’s home does not constitute consent.”
Writes Lindsay Kee, from the ACLU of Tennessee:
“Looking Latino and speaking Spanish is not enough to justify probable cause for questioning and arresting a person.”
Among the plaintiffs are US citizens, says the ACLU, including a child detained and interrogated while playing soccer on the playground, simply because of the color of his skin.
According to the ACLU, on the night of October 20, 2010, Angel Escobar and Jorge Sarmiento were in their beds in their small, two-bedroom apartment in the Clairmont complex in Nashville. Several roommates and friends were in other rooms. The doors and windows were all shut and locked. Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door and voices shouting “Police!” and “Policia!” When no one answered, the agents tried to force the door open. Scared, occupants hid.
ICE agents began hitting objects against the bedroom windows, trying to break them. Without a search warrant and without consent, the ICE agents eventually kicked in the front door and shattered a window, shouting racial slurs and storming into the bedrooms, holding guns to some people’s heads. When asked if they had a warrant, one agent reportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE,” and, gesturing to his genitals, “the warrant is coming out of my balls.”
This is not a one-off.
Writes Nathan Treadwell in the North Carolina Law Review:
“In the past several years, ICE has made warrant-less home raids a key component of interior immigration enforcement. Such raids, which frequently bring in otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, violate the Fourth Amendment when they take place without the consent of a member of the household. Press and judicial accounts of such raids show that the agency now engages in widespread unlawful entries as well as violent, demeaning, and threatening conduct.”
Similar lawsuits to the one in Nashville have been filed following raids in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Georgia and Northern California.
In Newark, as in Nashville, US citizens were detained. In the Newark case, one plaintiff in the lawsuit, Maria Argueta — who’s been a legal immigrant since 2001 — was detained and held for 36 hours, according to the New York Times. ICE agents entered her home by telling her they were police officers searching for a “wanted criminal.”
In Detroit, according to the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform Michigan, a pattern of Detroit area ICE agent behavior has included warrantless searches, a mother strip-searched in front of her son, detainees, including a pregnant woman, denied needed medicines in jail, an immigrant shoved through a wall by agents and harassment of American citizens.
But in Detroit, as in other locations, internal investigations have found that officers did not engage in any abuse or professional misconduct. Hence the lawsuits.
Photo credit: Say No to Secure Communities Program