who's at your front door? it's federal law enforcement!

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big_brother_award_f.jpgHave you ever:

  • Spoken with an accent? 
  • "Looked Mexican?"
  • Attended a pro-migrant rally?
  • Complained about the government?
  • Written a blog post about immigration?       

Watch out--ICE could come to your door, just like they came to the door of Kevin Crabtree, a San Francisco-based immigration lawyer. 

He filed a complaint after ICE showed up and demanded entry, failed to legally justify the reason for their search, and threatened to break his door down anyway.  Here is part of his complaint to ICE headquarters:

I am a citizen of the United States and an attorney at law.  I practice immigration law exclusively, with a particular focus on removal defense.  I consequently have frequent interactions with employees of USICE and USCIS in San Francisco.

So, it was an interesting coincidence that two ICE officers rang my doorbell this morning-having bypassed the street security gate and buzzer that most people understand to be an indication that the 12-unit apartment building is not open to the general public.  At 8:15 a.m., as I happened to be discussing case strategy on the phone with co-counsel regarding a bond hearing the same day, my apartment doorbell rang.

It turned out to be ICE agents in lukewarm pursuit of brown people to harass and lock up.  Crabtree told them to leave. 

After I closed the door, the unidentified male officer stated, "I'm going to kick your door down."  He also threatened me with prosecution for alien harboring.

Crabtree repeatedly asked the officers to produce a warrant.  They never did, instead relying on threats and intimidation to gain entry to a private citizen's home.  What they didn't anticipate was confronting an experienced immigration attorney who knew his rights and wasn't going to back down. 

As an American citizen, I feel that it is very important that the representatives of my own government respect the law rather than break it.  The conduct of the unidentified officer in threatening to kick down my door, though he obviously lacked the legal authority to do so, is indefensible.  Such behavior is unbecoming a federal law enforcement agent.  The officer's threat placed me in fear of my physical safety.

But for my training as a lawyer, I have little doubt that my rights would have been completely brushed aside.  By making criminal threats against my home and physical safety, threatening prosecution without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, and refusing to respect my property rights, the officers clearly sought to dissuade the exercise of my constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

. . .

ICE officers undergo extensive training on immigration and constitutional law.  I have no doubt that the conduct of the above officers was knowing and willful.  This incident also appears to be just one example of a pattern of constitutional violations in recent times by ICE officers, suggesting the agency has adopted a policy of aggressive violations of constitutional rights in its enforcement efforts.

New York City residents, take note: I've now heard reports in NYC of Long Island-style random ICE raids on apartment buildings where ICE agents kick down the door ostensibly looking for a particular individual but then sweep up everyone in sight who "looks illegal" and can't produce immigration papers.  As far as I know, this is a recent development--before, ICE raids within the five boroughs were more limited, with agents going to homes and businesses looking for particular individuals.  This new approach represents a full-scale assault on one of the country's most vibrant, multiethnic economic engines.  New Yorkers should not sit back and watch federal storm troopers invade our communities.  "First they came for the undocumented migrant workers" . . . you know how this ends. 

One wonders if next the government will reopen Ellis Island for one of its original purposes: to detain immigrants awaiting deportation.  Part T. Don Hutto, part Alcatraz, nativists around the country will proudly herald this reclamation of a lesser-known function of America's favorite gateway.  Welcome to the restrictionist vision of the future!

[Image: Wired/Privacy International]

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on March 10, 2008 11:59 PM.

United Nations Says U.S. Fails to Protect Migrant Rights. was the previous entry in this blog.

ALIPAC.org Boycotts Nickelodeon: Pro-migrant Round-up is the next entry in this blog.

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