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ICE Settles New York Immigration Raid Lawsuit for $1 Million

ICE Settles New York Immigration Raid Lawsuit for $1 Million

by Matt Clarke

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has agreed to settle a class-action suit filed by 22 immigrants whose homes were raided by ICE agents in the New York City metropolitan area.

The settlement requires a change in ICE policy, prohibiting agents from entering a home without consent or conducting sweeps of homes absent reasonable suspicion. It also requires the United States to pay $36,000 per plaintiff and $218,000 in attorney fees and costs, for a total of just over $1 million. Further, the settlement includes the delay for four years of immigration proceedings against four plaintiffs and the termination of proceedings against four others, with an agreement not to use any evidence developed during the raids against the plaintiffs in future proceedings.

The plaintiffs were immigrants whose residences were raided by ICE. During the raids, ICE agents knocked on the immigrants’ doors and, when they were opened, pushed past the person answering the door – sometimes with weapons drawn – rounded up all the residents and conducted a protective sweep of the home, all without a warrant or requesting consent.

“There was no opportunity to say, ‘Please don’t come into my house,’” said Ghita Schwarz, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which helped represent the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

In one raid, the only people at home were then-12-year-old Beatriz Velasquez and her younger sister when ICE agents forced their way inside, looking for someone unrelated to the Velasquez family.

“It was scary,” stated Beatriz, who said she never gave the agents permission to enter the home. “My little sister was crying throughout the entire raid. I felt helpless.”

The changes in ICE policy prohibit warrantless entry into a target home, require that consent be requested in the language of the person granting consent, require a Spanish-speaking officer to be present when the suspect is believed to be a Spanish speaker and prohibit protective sweeps of residences without a reasonable, articulable suspicion of danger. Agents must also receive consent to enter the yard and other curtilage or areas that surround a home where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

“No longer will ICE agents have free reign to invade the homes of immigrants, especially Latino immigrants, and be as abusive as they want without any worry that they might be reprimanded,” declared Juan Cartagena, president of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a New York-based advocacy group that, along with the CCR and a New York City law firm, represented the plaintiffs. Winston & Strawn provided attorneys Aldo A. Badini, Kelly Anne Librera and George E. Mastoris, who worked with Schwarz and attorneys Foster S. Maer and Elizabeth Joynes of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

The raids that sparked the lawsuit were among hundreds conducted in the New York City metropolitan area and throughout the U.S. in 2006 and 2007. They were widely criticized by local officials at the time and resulted in a number of legal actions, most of which have been settled. This suit, which was filed in 2007 and named ICE and numerous Homeland Security officials as defendants, is the only one that resulted in a change in ICE policy. See: Aguilar v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S.D.C. (S.D.N.Y.), Case No. 1:07-cv-08224-KBF.


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Related legal case

Aguilar v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement