By Dave Collins
HARTFORD, Conn. — Federal agents violated the constitutional rights of four illegal immigrants in raids that critics say were retaliation for a New Haven program that provided ID cards to foreigners in the country illegally, a federal judge has ruled.
The sweeps on June 6, 2007, came two days after New Haven approved issuing identification cards to illegal immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deny the early morning raids were retaliatory.
Immigration Judge Michael Straus, in a decision last week, said the ICE agents went into the men's apartments without warrants, probable cause or their consent, and he put a stop to deportation proceedings against the four Latino defendants.
Immigration officials have denied claims that the 32 arrests that morning were improper. They said in court documents that they were allowed into the homes. It was not clear whether they will appeal Straus' ruling. Messages were left Monday morning for a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Witnesses described in court documents how parents were arrested in front of their children and alleged that agents refused to identify themselves and told people in the homes to shut up.
In his ruling issued June 2, Straus said the four immigrants' rights were "egregiously violated" and the agents' entries in the apartments were "unlawful."
"Examination of the agents' ... conduct confirms (the defendant's) Fourth Amendment rights were flagrantly violated," Straus wrote in one of the four men's cases.
"The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is 'reasonableness' and, by natural extension, one's reasonable expectation of privacy," the judge wrote. "Nowhere is that expectation of privacy more sacrosanct than in the confines of one's home."
Of the 32 people arrested, 30 were released on bond or supervision orders. Seventeen of those 30 immigrants challenged their arrests in court.
Straus denied motions in 11 of the 17 cases, granted motions in four of them and reserved decision in the remaining two. Of the 11 cases in which motions were denied, one person was later granted asylum by the judge and the other 10 have appealed.
Yale Law School students are representing the immigrants, whose names were not released.
"We're obviously very happy about it," Anant Saraswat, one of the students, said Monday. "We think our clients had a very strong case."
Saraswat said it won't be known for about a month whether federal authorities will appeal Straus' ruling. He said the case can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, then to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
New Haven officials have said the raids appeared to be retaliatory for the ID cards, which are meant to help immigrants open bank accounts and receive city services. But ICE officials have said the ID program played no role in the arrests, and the immigration raids were planned weeks before the ID program began.
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