LOS ANGELES — A coalition of civil rights groups has agreed to dismiss its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against federal immigration officials, after securing the release of more than 2500 pages of documents relating to the federal government’s unlawful treatment of workers detained during a huge workplace raid in Los Angeles in 2008.
On Monday, January 31, 2011, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles dismissed their federal lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. When the civil rights groups filed the lawsuit in October 2008, the agencies had failed to release a single document in response to the FOIA request. It was only through the federal litigation that the groups were able to negotiate the release of documents originally withheld by the agencies.
The documents released pertain to a federal immigration raid that took place on February 7, 2008 at a Micro Solutions Enterprises manufacturing plant in Van Nuys. Agents interrogated and detained well over 130 employees, though they only had arrest warrants for eight, raising concerns that workers were subject to interrogation without any legal basis.
The documents released by the government following the filing of the lawsuit shed light on agents’ conduct during the raid. Specifically, the documents established that, although government officials only had warrants to arrest a few individuals, they actively planned to arrest up to 200 workers in their raid dragnet. Furthermore, ICE officials admitted that they engaged in the raid as a result of an anonymous tip. The released documents were an important part of establishing that the workers arrested in the raid should have their immigration proceedings terminated because the arresting agents violated the workers’ rights.
“These documents have allowed the dozens of men and women who were unlawfully swept up by this raid to fight their cases and stay here in the United States with their families and children,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Without the litigation, the government may never have come clean about its illegal actions during the Micro Solutions Raid, and the families and communities of those affected by the raids might be suffering a much worse fate today.”
“We were pleased to represent NILC in this litigation, and we are delighted by the result. Not only were we able to uncover some of the ongoing failures of the government in conducting immigration raids and obtain important evidence for use by the Micro Solutions employees in their individual immigration cases, we were able to hold the government accountable to its policy of transparency to the public, which is, of course, the underlying purpose of the FOIA statute,” said Katherine Smith, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which served as pro bono counsel for NILC in the lawsuit.
“At a time when some in Congress are calling for a return to worksite enforcement, the documents obtained through this lawsuit show what a tragically misguided effort that would be. The Micro Solutions raid traumatized dozens of people, both citizens and non-citizens, resulted in a massive expenditure of judicial resources, but as of now has resulted in virtually no deportations,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants’ rights and national security at the ACLU of Southern California. “It is hard to imagine more conclusive proof that raids damage our communities while doing nothing to make us safer.”
The lawsuit, National Immigration Law Center v. Department of Homeland Security, sued both the Department of Homeland Security, and its sub-agency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducted the February 7, 2008 raid in Van Nuys. NILC was represented by Maurice M. Suh and Katherine Smith, of Gibson Dunn. The National Immigration Law Center’s in-house counsel also participated as counsel in the case, and their team included Linton Joaquin, Karen Tumlin and Nora Preciado. Ahilan Arulanantham and Jennie Pasquarella from the ACLU of Southern California represented itself and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.