Groups Sue for Release of Government Documents

October 28, 2008

Groups Sue for Release of Government Documents Related to Local Immigration Raid

LOS ANGELES — A coalition of civil rights lawyers is suing federal immigration officials who have illegally failed to release information about reported racial profiling, intimidation and denial of access to counsel by workers detained during a huge workplace raid in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles filed a federal lawsuit asserting that the government’s lack of response violates the Freedom of Information Act.  The three groups first requested basic information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security nearly seven months ago.  The government has failed to release a single document.

“The government has squandered an opportunity to allay community concerns about the manner in which it is conducting immigration raids.  If the government truly believes that it is conducting these raids in a humane and lawful manner, it should release the documents this lawsuit seeks,” said NILC staff attorney Karen Tumlin.

On February 7, federal immigration agents raided a Micro Solutions Enterprises manufacturing plant in Van Nuys.  Agents interrogated and detained well over 200 employees, though they only had arrest warrants for eight, raising concerns that workers were presumed guilty under the immigration laws based solely or primarily on their race/ethnicity.  The documents the government has failed to produce would shed light on agents’ conduct during the raid, including whether they adhered to their own policies concerning the manner in which workplace raids should be conducted and whether appropriate screening was done to determine whether detained individuals should be released to care for minor children or other dependants.

“The public has a right to know whether the immigration agents followed the law when conducting this massive worksite raid.  The government’s refusal to provide the information speaks volumes about its own confidence that it is complying with federal law and the Constitution,” said ACLU-SC Director of Immigrants’ Rights and National Security, Ahilan Arulanantham.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been under scrutiny for its aggressive tactics in conducting increasingly frequent workplace raids over the last two years.  In some cases, federal agents have separated mothers from nursing infants.  Last month, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate to set guidelines that would ensure immigration raids are conducted in a humane manner that does not trample on individuals’ civil rights or presume guilt based on skin color.

“We are pleased to represent NILC in this case, which stands for the fundamental principle that those enforcing the law must abide by it,” said Ann Robinson, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which is serving as pro bono counsel for NILC in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, National Immigration Law Center v. Department of Homeland Security, sues both the Department of Homeland Security, and its subagency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which conducted the February 7, 2008, raid in Van Nuys.  The plaintiffs in lawsuit are:  the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Southern California, and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.  The National Immigration Law Center is representing itself along with the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is serving as pro bono counsel for NILC.  The ACLU of Southern California is representing itself and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles.  In addition to Arulanantham, Robinson, and Tumlin, other counsel in the case include:  Linton Joaquin and Nora Preciado of NILC;  Maurice Suh and Katherine Smith of Gibson Dunn; and Jennifer Pasquarella of the ACLU of Southern California.

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Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Case No. CV08-07092 (C.D. Cal., filed Oct. 28, 2008).