Immigrants Can Sue Immigration Officials

A lawsuit in New Haven, Connecticut created a whole new way to think about the immigration debate in this country. U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are NOT immune from suits claiming they violated immigrants’ constitutentional rights. Which is to say, that the Constitution is truly the Law of the Land — not just the law for people with papers in the United States.

The short version of what happened is that 11 immigrants who were picked up by ICE in June of 2007 in New Haven sued the agents that arrested them, their supervisors and Julie Myers who headed ICE under then-president George W. Bush. The suit alleged that, because these agents were required to make 1,000 arrests a year, the quota violated their Constitutional rights by incentivizing the arrests of bystanders. Mind you some of these agents were trained only once for three weeks in how to determine legal status, something lawyers spend several years going over.

Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were at issue in the case, which will likely have national implications. I think it’s sad to realize that it’s taken until 2010 to recognize that agents in the field wielding the weapons of guns and the law might, well, sometimes make mistakes. Allowing immigrants to sue agents and their supervisors gives our federal agents the incentive to stick as closely to the law as possible.

[Image Courtesy ICE]

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