Friday, April 11, 2008

INB 4/11/08: Virginia Resort Raided, NJ Suit Challenges Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 7 - April 11, 2008

1. Virginia Resort Raided
2. ICE Arrests 332 in South Florida
3. “Fugitive” Raids in Midwestern States
4. NJ Lawsuit Challenges Home Raids
5. Kids Sue Detention Center Over Abuse

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Early on Apr. 8, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents interrogated some 100 employees working at the luxury Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, in northern Virginia's Loudoun County. ICE reported that 53 of the workers were arrested as "immigration status violators"; two of them, both women, were released at the site for humanitarian concerns. ICE agents arrested another six immigrants outside the facility. All 59 of the arrested men and women face removal proceedings, and two of them have been charged with criminal violations such as identity theft or obtaining genuine documents fraudulently. The arrested immigrants are nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina, according to ICE.

The ICE investigation into the Lansdowne Resort's hiring practices started in early July 2007 following a routine inspection of all I-9 employment forms at the resort. ICE agents identified information in the I-9 forms that led them to suspect that many employees had used fraudulent or stolen identity documents to get jobs at the resort. The investigation is ongoing, said ICE in a news release.

Cheryl Kilday, president and CEO of the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association, said she had spoken with a Lansdowne Resort executive about the incident, and that the company had been collaborating with ICE throughout the investigation. "Lansdowne had been working with them since August," said Kilday. "Lansdowne had been expecting them. They were cooperating in every way they could. This was something Lansdowne had been complying with."

Some of the arrested workers will be held in facilities awaiting transfer to detention centers, while others will be released on their own recognizance or released with a GPS tracking unit. The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office was informed the previous week about the planned raid at the hotel, and assisted ICE with the arrests during the actual operation, confirmed Kraig Troxell, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office.

The raid came less than three weeks after ICE arrested 34 immigrants working for CMC Concrete Construction in Manassas, Virginia [see INB 3/29/08]. The two operations appear to have been the largest workplace raids conducted by immigration authorities in the Washington, DC region in the past two years. [ICE News Release 4/8/08; Washington Post 4/9/08; Leesburg Today 4/9/08]


In a two-week operation that ended Apr. 4, ICE agents from the Miami Fugitive Operations Team arrested 332 people for violating immigration laws. Michael Rozos, ICE Florida Field Office Director for the Office of Detention and Removal, announced the results of the enforcement action at an Apr. 7 news conference in Miami. ICE arrested 147 people in Miami-Dade, 104 in Broward County and 81 in Palm Beach. According to ICE, 300 of those arrested were what the agency calls "fugitives," immigrants who had failed to comply with final orders of deportation. ICE said the other 32 people arrested "were immigration violators...who have been convicted of various crimes." Those arrested came from countries including Angola, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Surinam, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Out of the total 332 people arrested, 68 who were verified as sole caregivers or having medical concerns were released on orders of supervision and placed on the Alternatives to Detention Program (ATD), which according to ICE "has provided effective community based supervision to eligible aliens." The rest of those arrested were detained. [ICE News Release 4/7/08; Miami Herald 4/7/08]


In a two-day operation ending Mar. 30, ICE Fugitive Operations Team agents arrested 28 immigrants in Liberal, Kansas. Those arrested were 23 men and five women. Twenty of them were from Guatemala, six were from Mexico, and two were from El Salvador. Four of the 28 had criminal convictions; 18 had prior orders of deportation. All those arrested have been placed in deportation proceedings. Officers from the Liberal Police Department provided leads and otherwise assisted ICE during the operation. [ICE News Release 4/4/08]

In a two-day operation ending Mar. 27, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 18 men and seven women in Grand Island, Nebraska, and surrounding communities. Out of the total 25 people arrested, 15 are from Guatemala, eight are from Mexico, one is from El Salvador and one is from Iran. Nineteen of the 25 were "fugitives" who had failed to comply with earlier deportation orders; ICE described the other six as "immigration violators encountered by ICE officers during their targeted arrests." Five of the 25 had criminal convictions. [ICE News Release 3/28/08]

In a four-day sweep ending Feb. 25, ICE agents arrested 225 immigrants in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Missouri. The individuals arrested had outstanding deportation orders to 12 countries including Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, India and Poland. Thirty of the arrests took place in the Chicago area. [AP 2/26/08, 2/27/08; Chicago Tribune 2/27/08]

ICE has 75 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed across the country. Congress has authorized ICE to add 29 more Fugitive Operations Teams in fiscal year 2008. According to ICE, the success of its Fugitive Operations Teams can be partly attributed to the new Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) in Vermont, which aids in gathering and analyzing information on fugitive cases across the country. Since opening in 2007, this center has since provided ICE agents with more than 150,000 case leads. [ICE News Release 4/4/08]


On Apr. 3, Seton Hall Law School's Center for Social Justice and Lowenstein Sandler, PC, filed suit in Federal District Court in New Jersey, alleging that federal law enforcement officials violated the rights of people whose homes they entered during pre-dawn immigration raids. The 10 plaintiffs include two US citizens, a permanent resident, and a person who was lawfully present in the US under protected status. The plaintiffs charge that officials violated their constitutional privacy and due process rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by entering their homes without consent or a judicial warrant during eight home raids across New Jersey between August 2006 and January 2008.

During these raids, the lawsuit states, most of the plaintiffs were awakened by loud pounding on their doors and answered the door, fearing an emergency. ICE agents subsequently either lied about their identity or purpose to gain entry, or simply shoved their way into the home. During each raid the agents swept through the house and, displaying guns, rounded up all the residents for questioning. In some cases they ordered children out of their beds, shouted obscenities, shoved guns into residents' chests, and refused to allow them to call their lawyers. In the case of plaintiff Maria Argueta, a legal resident, agents lied to get into her home then refused to even to look at her immigration papers proving her status. Detained at 4:30 in the morning, she was held for 24 hours without food or water. In at least half the raids, the officers purported to be searching for a person who did not even live at the address raided.

"None of the home raids in today's case involved valid warrants allowing the agents to enter, and none of the residents gave consent," noted plaintiffs' attorney Scott Thompson, of Lowenstein Sandler. "The Constitution is very clear about the circumstances under which law enforcement may enter a private home, and the entries in this case did not even come close."

The complaint asserts that such violations are typical operating procedures for the ICE program called "Operation Return to Sender," which purports to target people who have failed to comply with deportation orders. According to the complaint, ICE agents carrying out this program have been ordered to meet dramatically increased immigrant arrest quotas using outdated address information and without having been trained on lawful procedures. The complaint points out that of the 2,079 people arrested in New Jersey last year under this program, 87% had no criminal record, and as few as one in three had outstanding deportation orders. The suit charges that the program is used as a pretext for dragnet searches in which ICE makes thousands of what it calls "collateral arrests" of people who are not being sought but who are discovered at the raided homes and are found to be out of status.

The complaint names senior federal officials including ICE chief Julie Myers, saying they knew about the practice and allowed it to continue. The complaint also seeks to hold responsible local police officers who participated in one of the raids alongside ICE agents. The Center for Social Justice and the newspaper Brazilian Voice had filed a Freedom of Information Act suit in federal court on Jan. 28, challenging the government's withholding of documents about the raids. Documents relating to these lawsuits are online at [Seton Hall Law School Press Release 4/3/08]


Eight teenage male immigrant detainees filed a federal lawsuit on Apr. 3, claiming they were beaten and subjected to other excessive force at a privately-run 122-bed detention facility in San Antonio, Texas. The plaintiffs from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba are being represented in the suit by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. According to the lawsuit, the beatings were so severe that some of the boys required hospital treatment for their injuries, and at least one boy was knocked unconscious. Complaints to facility administrators about the abuse were ignored. Officials at the detention center, officially called the Abraxas Hector Garza Treatment Center, also denied the boys access to attorneys by unnecessarily transferring them to other facilities before scheduled lawyer meetings, the lawsuit alleges.

The detention center is run by Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. under a contract with the US Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for the care of unaccompanied minors found to be without status in the US. The suit names Cornell Companies, numerous employees of the facility, federal officials and San Antonio police. It does not name ORR itself because the plaintiffs have not filed or exhausted their administrative claims against the agency, a requirement that must be fulfilled before the federal government can be sued. [Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Press Release 4/2/08; AP 4/3/08]


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