LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Finding that federal agents illegally detained and arrested dozens of people during a work site raid in Van Nuys last year, an immigration judge terminated orders to deport Gregorio Perez Cruz in a ruling this week. The ruling is likely to influence the outcome of dozens of the remaining cases arising out of the same raid.
In a 19-page ruling, Los Angeles Immigration Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor found that on Feb. 7, 2008, armed immigration agents blocked exits at Micro Solutions Enterprise and forcefully ordered dozens of workers to stop working. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents then illegally detained and questioned Perez Cruz and dozens of others without reasonable suspicion that the workers were in the country unlawfully. ICE agents also denied food and water to Perez Cruz, along with dozens of other workers, for over 18 hours prior to interrogating him. He was never advised of his right to an attorney or told that his statements could be used against him.
The judge also found it critical that ICE agents indiscriminately arrested everyone at the factory, including dozens of citizens.
'We are pleased that the judge recognized the coercive and illegal tactics immigration officials used in carrying out this work site raid,' said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants' rights and national security for the ACLU/SC. 'The decision sends a strong message to immigration officials that they must not violate their own policy governing the rights of detainees, and that they cannot use intimidation and other illegal tactics when conducting enforcement operations.'
More than 150 workers, including pregnant women, were detained on suspicion of immigration violations during the raid of Micro Solutions Enterprise, a toner and ink manufacturing company. The agents had no arrest warrants for most of the workers and never individually established suspicion that those arrested were immigration violators. ICE agents subsequently barred attorneys from accompanying those detained during interviews in the days following the raid.
A coalition of groups -- including the National Lawyers Guild, National Immigration Law Center and the ACLU/SC -- immediately filed a lawsuit against ICE for repeatedly preventing attorneys from accompanying their clients at interviews with federal agents. That case was settled last March with an agreement that ICE would permit attorneys to accompany their clients.
'The U.S. government spent endless hours and an untold amount of taxpayer dollars to arrest hard-working people, almost all who had no criminal history. And in Gregorio's case, they accomplished nothing. The Van Nuys work site raid is one more example of how a zealous focus on deportation-only measures can run amok,' said Xiomara Corpe�o, director of community organizing at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Represented by the ACLU/SC and the Law Offices of Noemi Ramirez, Perez Cruz was the first of the dozens of those arrested to challenge ICE's arrest before an immigration judge. Tabaddor's ruling will provide an influential finding for other immigration judges dealing with cases from this raid, Arulanantham noted.
The workers detained at the raid have been assisted by a large coalition of private attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, the American Immigration Lawyers' Association and several immigrants' rights organizations, including the Coalition for Humane Immigrants' Rights of Los Angeles, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Central American Resource Center.
'This was an incredible moment in my life. I was afraid I would be torn away from my young son and family and they would lose my support,' Perez Cruz said. 'I am so thankful that I can continue to provide for them.'