Sunday, October 07, 2007

Court asked to require warrants for immigration raids. Someone has to hold ICE accountable for what they are doing.

Several families and individuals from Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties filed a request Friday for a temporary restraining order to prevent federal immigration officials from conducting further raids without court-issued search warrants.

"This cannot be allowed to go on unless they seek permission, as they should, from the courts," said Foster Maer, an attorney for the Manhattan-based Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the request along with a private law firm.

The request, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, comes on the heels of a string of operations in Nassau County by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that drew criticism from Latino and immigration advocates, as well as Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.

Mulvey said agents acted like "cowboys" by pointing their weapons at officers and rounding up undocumented immigrants who were not named in warrants.

The request for the restraining order names 27 plaintiffs who are also listed in a class-action lawsuit filed Sept. 20 that claims that raids in Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties in February, March and September violated their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches by the government.

It asks that agents not enter or search homes without a court-issued search warrant.

"No one has ever seen any warrant authorizing ICE for them to be arrested," said attorney Donna Gordon of Manhattan, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The request also asks that they not contact, retaliate against, arrest, prosecute or deport the plaintiffs or any witnesses.

"They have threatened our clients with coming back, [saying], 'You haven't seen the last of us,'" Maer said.

Lastly, the request asked that ICE not transfer any detainees to out-of-state facilities without notifying the court and the plaintiff's attorney.

Mark Thorn, a spokesman for ICE, said the action is under review. The U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District, he said, will be representing the agency in court.

"We believe that a review of the law, the facts and the merits will be in favor of ICE and its authorities," Thorn said.

The action was applauded by Latino advocates.

"Although it's a little late, it certainly is needed," said the Rev. Allan Ramirez, a pastor at Brookville Reformed Church. "Someone has to hold ICE accountable for what they are doing."

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