A report released today finds that over the past several years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has allowed a “cowboy mentality” to flourish, including SWAT-team style raids of homes that violate constitutional law and basic standards of humanity.
According to the report by the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, during raids of private homes over the last several years agent misconduct has allegedly included:
- ICE agents illegally entering homes without legal authority – for example, physically pushing or breaking their way into private residences.
- ICE agents illegally seizing non-target individuals during home raid operations – for example, seizing innocent people in their bedrooms without any basis.
- ICE agents illegally searching homes without legal authority – for example, breaking down locked doors inside homes.
- ICE agents illegally seizing individuals based solely on racial or ethnic appearance or on limited English proficiency.
The report states that agents were required to obtain informed consent from a resident before they entered a private residence. In 86 percent of the Nassau and Suffolk County arrest reports, and in one quarter of the New Jersey cases, no consent was recorded. The New York Times describes a story of legal residents from Guatemala and their 9 year old son who “were threatened with guns by immigration agents who had entered their home while the boy’s mother was in the shower.”
As the report describes, the 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.” 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 those target arrests.
In a response to the report sent to the New York Times, ICE failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the alleged violations, and instead issued the following statement: “The men and women of I.C.E. are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation. We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness with the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter. While ICE prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives.”
“Instead of defensive and unresponsive statements from the ICE press office, this report demands a clear statement of concern by Secretary Napolitano and an immediate commitment to a thorough investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. He added, “This report is a scathing indictment of Bush-era enforcement tactics that have terrorized families and communities without fixing the broken immigration system. It substantiates what immigrant communities and their advocates have known about for some time. The ICE cowboys were let loose to conduct residential and workplace raids that were about grabbing headlines, pandering to the anti-immigrant right, and running up arrest totals. It is an outrage that widespread violations of the rights of Latino immigrants continued for so long. It will be just as much of an outrage if the DHS under President Obama sweeps these abuses under the carpet.”
To see the full Cardozo Law School report, click here.
For an Enforcement Priorities report by America’s Voice, click here.