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Home Immigration (ICE) Raids: Cowboys vs. the Constitution?

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ICE raids

More headaches for the Department of Homeland Security this week.

new report released today finds
that Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) agents trampled on constitutional rights, engaged in racial
profiling, and adhered to a “cowboy mentality” during New York and New
Jersey-based home raid operations conducted since 2006.

In Report Says Immigration Agents Broke Laws and Agency Rules in Home Raids, New York Times reporter Nina Berstein writes:

In Paterson, N.J., last year, legal residents from Guatemala and
their 9-year-old son, a United States citizen, were threatened with
guns by immigration agents who had entered their home while the boy’s
mother was in the shower.

According to the AP:

NEW YORK – Immigration agents raiding homes for suspected illegal immigrants violated the U.S. Constitution by entering without proper consent and may have used racial profiling, a report analyzing arrest records found.

Latinos made up a disproportionate number of the people arrested who were not the stated targets of the raids, and many of their arrest reports gave no basis for why they were initially seized, said the report, which was based on data from raids in New York and New Jersey.

We’ve reported extensively on the flaws of the Bush-era immigration enforcement apparatus, but the report presents a new and crucial challenge to the Obama administration.

As the report describes, home raids:

“…involve teams of heavily armed ICE agents making predawn tactical entries into homes, purportedly to apprehend some high priority target believed to be residing therein. ICE has admitted that these are warrantless raids and, therefore, that any entries into homes require the informed consent of residents.”

Despite this purported focus, approximately two-thirds of the people arrested during these raids were “civil immigration violators who are in the wrong place at the wrong time – people who have, for example, overstayed their visas.” The report also uncovered a pattern of racial profiling against Latinos. Approximately “90% of the collateral arrest records reviewed, where ICE officers did not note any basis for seizing and questioning the individual, were of Latino men and women – though Latinos represented only 66% of target arrests.”  

Authored by the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the study questions the oversight capabilities of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the motivations behind ICE policies, and the Obama Administration’s commitment to reform the misplaced and ineffective enforcement priorities of the Bush Administration.

But the report does not stop at critique; there are clear recommendations for DHS. As the AP describes:

The report makes several recommendations, including limiting the use
of home raids to a last resort for targets who pose a serious risk to
national security or have violent criminal records; the use of judicial
rather than administrative warrants, and the videotaping of all home

It also calls for the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to conduct an investigation.

At stake in implementing these recommendations? Whether or not we,
as a
nation, can justify warrantless pre-dawn raids that often catch young
children in the cross hairs. At stake, fundamentally, is what kind of
America we value.

The AP piece concludes by citing one of the study’s
authors, Peter Markowitz:

“These are violations that go to the very heart of the Constitutional expectation of privacy in this country,” Markowitz said.