ICE Raid Violated Tennessee Workers’ Constitutional Rights
Zelaya, et al. v. Hammer, et al.
Status: Class certification granted; class settlement preliminarily approved.
Briefs, Memos, and Orders Filed with/Issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division (from latest to earliest):
- Order approving  Motion for Settlement and the Court ORDERS the following- Final judgment shall. “Before the Court is the parties’ joint motion for final approval of the proposed class action settlement and entry of final judgment (Doc. 788). The Court initially certified the class—which consists of all Latino individuals working at the Southeastern Provision meat packing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee on April 5, 2018, who were detained—on August 9, 2022 (Doc. 738). On October 19, 2022, the Court preliminarily approved the settlement (Doc. 781), and on February 27, 2023, the Court held a final fairness hearing regarding the settlement. The parties have advised the Court that notice packets, which included notice of the settlement and of the opportunity for class members to exclude themselves or file objections to the settlement, were transmitted to 98 mailing addresses and 43 email addresses. (Doc. 788, at 3–4.)”
- Order Granting Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement (filed 10/19/22). “Preliminarily, the Court finds that: the Agreement falls within the range of a reasonable settlement that could ultimately be given final approval by this Court; the Agreement is presumptively valid, as it appears to be the product of intensive, non-collusive, arms’ length negotiations between well-informed counsel; the settlement fund amount of $550,000.00 coupled with the non-monetary relief provided is fair and reasonable to Class Members when balanced against the probable outcome of further litigation relating to liability and damages issues; the parties have conducted extensive and costly investigation, discovery, research, and mediation such that the parties are able to reasonably evaluate their respective positions; and the settlement will avoid additional substantial costs, delay, and risks that would be presented by further litigation.”
- Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement (filed 10/12/22). “The Settlement provides meaningful monetary relief for approximately 100 class members who were Latino employees detained during the April 5, 2018 enforcement operation at the Southeastern Provision, LLC (‘SEP’) meat processing facility (the ‘Plant’) in Bean Station, Tennessee, as well as a letter from the government confirming their status as a class member in this case that class members may submit when seeking immigration relief. After over three years of litigation, the parties reached a Settlement in which Defendants Nicholas Worsham and Ronald Appel, on behalf of the Individual Defendants, agree to: (1) pay a total of $550,000.00 that will constitute the Class Settlement Fund, and (2) establish a process whereby class members may request a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia that confirms their status as class members in this litigation. The United States of America agrees to pay Plaintiffs’ counsel $150,000.00 for their fees and costs in connection with the settlement of Plaintiffs’ individual claims as partial reimbursement for the expenses and fees expended by Plaintiffs’ counsel.”
- Order Granting Class Certification (filed 8/9/22, PDF). “Plaintiffs have submitted evidence suggesting that each class member was allegedly harmed through the execution of a single plan orchestrated by the IRS and DHS, which is memorialized in ‘Operations Plans’ prepared by both agencies. These plans constituted a common set of instructions and were carried out against the class members in equal measure by Defendants. All class members are Latino and were, according to Plaintiffs, targeted for that reason. They were all detained and taken to the Armory for processing; ninety-seven were identified as undocumented and placed in immigration removal proceedings. If a jury found this evidence credible, a finding of liability in favor of a single plaintiff for a violation of § 1985(3) or § 1986 as to any of the Individual Defendants would result in a finding of liability for the class.”
- Fourth Amended Complaint (filed 5/5/21, PDF). “Prior to the raid, the federal officers did not know the identities or the immigration status of any worker in the Plant. They knew only that many of the workers were ‘Hispanic.’ Only after detaining the Latino workers – and, in many instances, not until after transporting the workers they detained to an offsite location in a different county – did the federal officers question the workers about their identity or immigration status. . . . Officers of the IRS, ICE, HSI, ERO, CBP, MPD, and THP conspired to plan and execute the forceful, prolonged, and unlawful seizure of the Plant’s Latino workforce solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity, and without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or other lawful authority. The federal officers prolonged the detention of Plaintiffs without any reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or other lawful authority.
- Order on Motion to Dismiss (filed 1/31/21, PDF). “Notably, of the four claims dismissed here, three are barred not because Plaintiffs failed to allege illegal conduct, but because the law provides them no pecuniary remedy for violation of their constitutional protections. Binding precedent mandates the conclusion that, however meritorious Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims may be, they are entitled to pursue damages only because Defendants allegedly conspired with [Tennessee Highway Patrol], bringing their equal-protection claim within the ambit of § 1985(3). Were it not for THP’s involvement, Plaintiffs would have no access to the only recourse that can matter to them now: damages. Despite Bivens and its early progeny, the lesson here is that federal agents can avoid accountability for their violations of the Constitution by simply excluding state and local agencies from their next operation. Perhaps a higher court will recognize causes of action that more directly address agents’ searches and seizures based on skin color. But this Court does not have the authority to do so.”
- Third Amended Complaint (filed 8/13/19, PDF). “The U.S. Constitution protects individuals from this kind of law enforcement overreach. The law is clear that seizures based entirely on race or ethnicity; seizures that are overly intrusive, without authority, or prolonged; arrests without probable cause; and the use of excessive force are prohibited by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Officers of the IRS, ICE, HSI, ERO, CBP, and THP conspired to plan and execute the forceful, prolonged, and unlawful seizure of the Plant’s Latino workforce solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity, and without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or other lawful authority.”
- Complaint (filed 2/21/19, PDF). “Plaintiffs are Latinos who were working in the plant the day of the raid. They bring this action, individually and on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated workers, to vindicate their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and monetary relief against the individual Defendants for violations of their clearly established constitutional rights the day of the raid.” | Exhibit 1: IRS Search Warrant (PDF) | Exhibit 2: Affidavit in Support of a Search Warrant (PDF)