Immigration authorities violated Hispanic families’ civil rights by raiding their homes without court warrants, sometimes bursting in before dawn to look for people who didn’t live there, according to a federal lawsuit.
The suit was filed Thursday on behalf of 15 people including seven U.S. citizens who say their suburban homes were raided earlier this year.
Arguing that the raids violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, the suit seeks unspecified damages and a halt on the home raids until Immigration and Customs Enforcement develops legal guidelines for them.
Mark Thorn, an ICE spokesman, said the agency does not comment on pending lawsuits.
According to the lawsuit, a program dubbed Operation Return to Sender dispatched armed federal agents to homes in search of illegal immigrants thought to have lingered after being ordered to leave the country. But the people sought often weren’t there and couldn’t “reasonably” have been expected to be, the lawsuit said.
In one case, authorities raided a home in East Hampton on Long Island around 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 in search of a man who had moved out in 2003, according to the lawsuit. The family still living there were U.S. citizens, except for a child who is a legal resident awaiting naturalization.
“Because the immigrant communities are afraid to publicly challenge these home raids, they’ve been getting away with it,” said Foster Maer, an attorney with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
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