Abusive ICE Raid in Tennessee Underscores Obama's Commitment to Deportations, Not Reform
From my inbox yesterday comes news of a recent raid of undocumented tenants living in substandard housing in Tennessee. Instead of prosecuting the landlords for violations of housing code, ICE arrested and detained the tenants. In the process, they broke doors and windows and yelled racial epithets at the families inside.
President Obama has made persecution and prosecution of immigrants one of his signature domestic priorities during his first two years of office. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his commitment to immigration reform.
Local ICE Raid Raises Humanitarian and Civil Rights Violation Concerns
TIRRC and ACLU-TN Denounce Government Action and Management Response to Tenants
For Immediate Release
October 28, 2010
David Morales, TIRRC, 615-833-0384 x 201, 615-775-1069 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director, 615-320-7142, email@example.com
NASHVILLE--The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today held a joint press conference condemning the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid at the Clairmont Apartments off of Murfreesboro Pike. At the time of the raid, the apartment complex was already under investigation for deplorable living conditions and the raid raised numerous additional humanitarian and civil rights violation concerns.
Residents reported that ICE conducted the October 20 raid in the manner of a SWAT team, breaking doors and windows to force their way into apartments. They shouted racial epithets at women and children, interrogated a 13-year-old child, and detained an elder diabetic. No warrants were ever presented, and to advocates' knowledge no criminal charges have been filed against any of the detainees.
"Our nation has the authority to control its borders and to regulate immigration, but the power to deport people must be exercised fairly and humanely. The constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection apply to all persons in this country - citizens and non-citizens alike," said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director. "The Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless intrusions into private homes, even the homes of undocumented immigrants. In the absence of a judicially-authorized warrant, there must be voluntary and knowing consent. ICE officers forcing themselves inside homes does not constitute consent."
The ICE raid followed a long period of neglect and deterioration in the living conditions at the complex, which have worsened markedly since Tritex Realty Advisors purchased the property in July, Greystar Real Estate Partners assumed management responsibilities, and Crime Suppression Services took charge of armed surveillance.
Management has routinely ignored tenants' complaints about chronic maintenance problems, water leaks, lack of essential services, mold problems and widespread pest infestation. Several buildings have had limited or no water supply and no heat for months. Three weeks ago, Greystar abandoned the onsite management office, posting a sign to call a number that, when dialed, rang inside the empty office. Calls placed weeks ago remain unreturned.
"Government actions such as raids that make life miserable for immigrants will not fix the problems with our broken immigration system. They only create more problems for society such as the public health concerns at Clairmont Apartments, where people are afraid to report appalling living conditions for fear of retaliation," said Stephen Fotopulos, TIRRC Executive Director. "We need to decide which America we want to live in--one that makes life intolerable for millions of people who live here, or one that brings immigrants out of the shadows and enables them to be taxpaying, contributing citizens."
ACLU-TN has developed an Immigrant Resource Center in English and Spanish that provides information to help people better understand the justice system and the safeguards it offers to ensure fair treatment. Resources cover obtaining visas in cases of abuse or human trafficking, encounters with law enforcement, the detention system, safety planning and raids. The Resource Center can be found at http://www.aclu-tn.org/immigrantresourcecenter.htm
TIRRC's Know Your Rights and Raid Toolkits can be found at http://www.tnimmigrant.org/community-resources/2009/6/26/toolkits.html
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.
ACLU-TN is making Tennessee more open and forward-looking. We are a watchdog against government abuse of rights, fighting for fairness in our laws & their enforcement through public education, advocacy, legislative lobbying and litigation.