Federal Court Preliminarily Approves Classwide Settlement of Civil Rights Lawsuit Challenging Workplace ICE Raid

October 19, 2022

National Immigration Law Center, Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Southern Poverty Law Center, Anna Núñez, [email protected], 334-201-9236


A federal court preliminarily approved the settlement, which provides for over $1‌‌‌‌ million to workers targeted by federal agents because of their ethnicity

KNOXVILLE, TN — On Oct. 19, a federal judge preliminarily approved a class settlement of a lawsuit challenging an April 2018 immigration raid. The settlement provides over $1 million to workers detained as part of the raid, which took place at a meat processing plant in East Tennessee and was, at the time, the largest workplace raid in nearly a decade. The plaintiffs allege that armed U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officers illegally targeted the Latinx workers for detention, excessive force and false arrest.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee granted the plaintiffs’ and individual defendants’ motion to preliminarily approve the settlement of the class action claims against federal agents from the IRS and DHS (including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection). Class members are approximately 100 Latinx workers who were detained during the workplace raid. The Court ordered class counsel to notify class members of their rights under the settlement. Class members must submit claim forms within 90 days of receiving notice of the settlement to claim their benefits. The settlement also resolves the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims of six individual plaintiffs against the United States.

In August, the Court certified the case as a class action in a precedent-setting decision, paving the way for class wide relief for the unlawful policing and racial profiling alleged in the lawsuit.

Under the $1.175 million settlement, class members will receive a total of $550,000 and, upon request, a letter from ICE confirming their membership in the class that can be included in any applications for immigration relief. The settlement also requires the United States to pay $475,000 to the six individual plaintiffs to resolve their FTCA claims, including excessive force and unlawful arrest, and $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses to SPLC and NILC. The Court has scheduled a final approval hearing on Feb. 27, 2023.

The following statements are provided by:

Michelle Lapointe, senior staff attorney, National Immigration Law Center
“This historic settlement, once finalized, will provide a measure of justice to dozens of Latinx workers who bravely fought back when federal agents violated their rights. It is a testament to the power of a community who — rather than cower — came together and organized, in the face of the previous administration’s hateful campaign to demonize and instill fear in immigrant communities. We are pleased with this important step toward achieving justice for our courageous plaintiffs and look forward to continuing toward resolution in their case.”

Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project
“This settlement marks a historic moment for immigrant workers in America. The Latinx workers took a stand against federal agents targeting them because of their ethnicity. This unprecedented settlement, once finalized, will show law enforcement officers that there are consequences for unlawful policing and racial profiling, even when aimed at low-wage, immigrant workers. The resolution of this case restores a measure of justice to the workers and reaffirms the rights of all workers in this country.”


Isabel Zelaya, et al. v. Robert Hammer, et al. was filed on Feb. 21, 2019. Plaintiffs are represented by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), pro bono attorneys Eben P. Colby, Jeremy A. Berman, Arthur R. Bookout and the law firms of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison and Sperling & Slater. On April 5, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Morristown Police Department, executed the largest workplace immigration raid in nearly a decade, detaining approximately 100 Latinx workers at an east Tennessee meat processing plant, violating their civil rights.