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December 14, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Today, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin took legal action against the federal government, after security video footage captured immigration agents conducting a raid and warrantless arrests at a South L.A. car repair shop.

The raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) occurred on Sept. 25 just before 1:30 p.m. at View Park Automotive. The agents with guns drawn stormed the shop and ordered everyone — the shop owner, three mechanics, a customer and a vendor — to freeze and put up their hands.

Plaintiff Juan Hernandez, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and young daughter, had worked at the shop for seven years as a mechanic and was one of those detained without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Hernandez (dressed in the blue shirt in the video) was asked no questions — not even for his name — before he was handcuffed and patted down. An agent finally asked him to identify himself, but before Hernandez could answer the agent found the wallet in his pocket and took out the California driver’s license.

"Although you wouldn't know it from the video, the law is clear: ICE is bound to respect its own regulations and the Constitution in the course of its operations," said Eva Bitran, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "ICE's arrest-first-ask-questions-later approach to enforcement is not only unlawful, it has real, painful consequences for communities and families like Mr. Hernandez’s."

The agents did not ask Hernandez about his immigration status. In fact, he didn't know the men who arrested him were from ICE until he and the two other mechanics were put in a black SUV and taken to an immigration processing center in downtown L.A. Hernandez was later transferred to the Adelanto Detention Facility. He was detained until Oct. 31 when he paid a $5,000 bond.

The motion filed in federal immigration court seeks to terminate deportation proceedings against Hernandez, stating: "The only thing the officers knew about Mr. Hernandez when they decided to detain him was his place of business and his Latino appearance."

His arrest clearly violated regulations that govern ICE enforcement operations. To protect individuals’ right to privacy and provide freedom from racial profiling, these laws permit ICE to make a warrantless arrest only if it has "reason to believe" the person "is an alien illegally in the United States" and likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.

"While this particular incident was caught on video, we frequently hear reports of similar abuses and can only imagine that countless more occur without the victims ever having access to counsel or an opportunity to tell their stories," said Megan Brewer, attorney at the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin. "ICE's efforts to remove undocumented noncitizens must not come at the expense of the Constitution and rule of law. "

Read the court filing here:

See raw footage of the raid: