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New Mexico County Immigrant Neighborhood Searches Enjoined

A New Mexico federal district court has issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the County of Otero from engaging in “unconstitutional stops, searches, seizures, and discrimination pursuant to ‘operation Stonegarden,’” which seeks to round up illegal immigrants.

Before the Court was the motion for preliminary injunction filed by the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). According to BNHR, the law enforcement agencies in Otero County received federal funds to apprehend undocumented immigrants. The “operations primarily entailed going home to home in the tight-knit clusters of low-income family homes that dot the desert in Chaperal, interrogating the Latino residents about their immigration status and even invading homes without warrants or any evidence of criminal activity. In these raids, Defendants harassed, interrogated and searched homes belonging to citizens and legal residents in addition to undocumented residents.”

The Court said that as BNHR only sought a return to the “status quo” via prohibitory, rather than mandatory, injunctive relief, and therefore the traditional standard for a preliminary injunction applied. The Court found BNHR would suffer irreparable harm in the form of continuing constitutional violations without the injunction and that the balance of injuries, public interest and likelihood of success weighed in BNHR’s favor. Thus, the Court’s injunction prohibited activities related to Operation Stonegarden without valid legal justification. See: Border Network for Human Rights v. County of Otero, USDC, D. New Mexico, Case No. 07-CV-01045-MV/WPL (Sept. 19, 2008). The case ultimately settled on undisclosed terms and was dismissed in April 2009.

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Related legal case

Border Network for Human Rights v. County of Otero

The court's order granting a preliminary injunction is in the brief bank.