The American Civil Liberties Union joins with the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other concerned individuals and organizations during this the "National Week of Action Against Immigration Raids" in calling for an end to abusive immigration raids. The abuses documented in various media accounts and in numerous court cases cannot be ignored. There is no excuse for physical and verbal abuses by INS officials, and there is no room for ethnic stereotyping in immigration enforcement or, for that matter, in other law enforcement activities.
Abusive raids must be stopped because they:
--Are conducted in a dragnet manner and sweep in citizens and lawfully-present aliens
--Depart from Fourth Amendment principles of probable cause and reasonable suspicion of a violation as a basis for enforcement activities against particular people
--Target individuals -- primarily Latinos and Asians -- based on their national origin or on proxies for national origin, such as appearance or accent
--Are used by employers to thwart union organizing
--Hamper efforts to protect immigrant communities from crime
These raids do not target particular individuals about whom facts exist indicating that the person is in the country illegally. Instead these abusive raids sweep up every person nearby, citizens and authorized aliens alike, forcing all who are confined to prove their lawful presence to avoid continued detention.
These abusive immigration raids deprive workers of basic Fourth Amendment protections. In many abusive raids, there is typically no probable cause of crime, or even of a violation of the immigration laws, that supports an entry onto property or detention of an individual. In fact, raids directed at employees are often conducted with the consent of the employer. However, the consent of the employer does nothing to further the interests of the true targets of the raid, the employees. Though workers have a right to refrain from answering questions, that right is illusory when questions are posed by armed officers in a coercive environment.
Even raids conducted with a legitimate warrant, often referred to as a "Blackie's" warrant, [Blackie's House of Beef v. Castillo, (D.C. Cir. 1981)], are conducted in a dragnet fashion. The Blackie's warrant does not require that the INS name or even describe the allegedly undocumented aliens it seeks. Consequently, the raid is conducted by barring the exits, and questioning everybody, or discriminatorily questioning those who "look foreign" or speak with a foreign accent.
These abusive raids target people based on their appearance, accent, or surname. While the INS has instructed its employees to refrain from using foreign appearance as the sole criterion in a work-site investigation, this discriminatory enforcement has not stopped. In fact, INS headquarters gave INS district offices a green light to use "foreign appearance" and "ethnic characteristics and language" in combination with other factors during work site raids to determine whom to question and/or detain.
Dragnet tactics that characterize an abusive immigration raid inevitably entangle citizens who are not -- and who should not be -- required to carry with them identity papers, or to retrieve them from home to satisfy an agent of the government. These practices are inconsistent with the principles that underlie the Fourth Amendment, the equal protection component of the Due Process clause, and the most basic notion of privacy: the right to be left alone.
Employers often abuse immigration raids to head off union organizing drives. Employers sometimes report their own work premises to the INS in order to prompt a raid and disrupt the organizing effort. We reiterate our call on the INS to refrain from conducting raids of work sites during union organizing drives.
INS enforcement operations that involve local police are also counter-productive and should be abandoned. The vesting of local law enforcement officials with immigration enforcement powers and joint law enforcement operations between local police and the INS both undermine enforcement of the criminal law. Community policing depends upon the trust and cooperation of the community to be protected. Witnesses to, and victims of crimes will simply not report them to police officers who have immigration enforcement duties, if such reporting could trigger immigration proceedings against themselves, their friends or members of their family. This mixing of law enforcement missions translates into more crimes going unsolved, or unstopped, in immigrant communities.
The answer to abusive immigration raids is not -- as is proposed by the INS -- the placement of a Public Relations officer at each site when INS conducts an abusive raid. An INS PR officer's "spin" does nothing to restore dignity to a person who is intimidated, detained and questioned without any particularized suspicion at a work site, or a park, or on a street corner, just because of ethnic appearance. Rather, this practice must end, and be replaced by law enforcement operations focused on particular suspects, not on entire work forces, entire communities, or everybody on a given street corner. This may be news to the officials in Chandler, Arizona, who went door-to-door last year looking for undocumented aliens: there is no such thing as an "illegal neighborhood."
The answer, rather, is to abandon the practice of indiscriminately rounding up people and putting the burden on them to prove their lawful presence. Immigration enforcement operations should be held to the same standards of particularity and suspicion as are other law enforcement operations.
In addition, we call on Congress to repeal the laws that foster the abuses. In 1986, legislation was adopted to impose sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers. The ACLU has long opposed employer sanctions because they result in discrimination against Asian and Latino workers based on appearance and accent. It's time for Congress to admit that this experiment has failed, and that employer sanctions must end.
Though they have turned employers into immigration cops, work places into immigration check points, and workers into numbers tracked in a computerized data base maintained by the federal government, employer sanctions have failed to discourage the undocumented from coming to the United States. The fact that some abusive raids are justified as efforts to enforce employer sanctions is one more reason the employer sanctions law should be repealed.
Instead, the root causes of undocumented immigration must be addressed, and workers' rights to a fair wage and safe working conditions must be better enforced to diminish the incentive for employers to hire and exploit the undocumented.