Yale Law Clinic Efforts Result in Precedent-Setting Triumph for Immigrant Rights

For the past three years, Yale law students in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic have worked on behalf of 11 Hispanic immigrants arrested during a three-day raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in New Haven, Connecticut.

The 2007 raid took place in a predominately Hispanic section of New Haven and resulted in the arrests of 32 immigrants, the majority of whom were bystanders and not the inividuals with criminal backgrounds that were the actual target of the raid.

In their complaint, the plaintiff’s alleged

that ICE officers raided residents’ homes without warrants or consent, and interrogated, arrested, and detained them in violation of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The complaint alleges that officers did not have individualized reasonable suspicion that any plaintiff was in violation of immigration laws, and that the interrogations and arrests were on the basis of plaintiffs’ skin color and physical appearance. Plaintiffs further allege that ICE’s actions were part of a pattern or practice of violations and were planned in response to pro-immigrant policies recently enacted by New Haven political and community leaders, in violation of New Haven’s local sovereignty as protected by the Tenth Amendment. Plaintiffs are seeking declaratory relief and damages.  Read full complaint.

Precedent was set last week when Judge Stefan Underhill of the  U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut “ruled that officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may be sued for civil rights violations” and that “the court has jurisdiction over this type of immigration case.”   From The National Law Journal’s coverage earlier this week:

“We believe this is the most sweeping decision by a district court on this issue,” said Muneer Ahmad, the director of the clinic. “It means that ICE, as a law enforcement agency, is subject to the same measures of constitutional accountability as other agencies.”

Although Underhill dismissed some minor claims, he found that the most important ones have enough merit to go forward, Ahmad said.

Congrats to the six Yale law students currently working on the case and the 25 other students that have been a part of the effort during the last three years on their victory!

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