Immigrant rights advocates Thursday filed suit in Los Angeles seeking to stop ICE agents from allegedly conducting warrantless searches by impersonating local law enforcement.
The proposed class-action suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd, a Hacienda Heights man and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and two community organizations who contend that ICE officers routinely wear uniforms labeled "police'' and identify themselves as federal immigration officers only after making an arrest, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs allege in federal court that ICE officers also "routinely trespass on community members' porches and other private areas surrounding their homes ... without permission or a judicial warrant,'' the suit states.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, Kidd was arrested by ICE officers in October 2018 after the agents "used deception to enter his home without a warrant or valid consent and to persuade him to exit his home.''
Kidd was subsequently detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility for more than two months, until his release in December 2018. "During that time, Mr. Kidd was separated from his husband and family, who faced severe financial stress and the threat of eviction from their home without Mr. Kidd's financial support,'' the lawsuit states.
The ACLU alleges in the lawsuit that ICE "has continued its troubling home arrest practices even in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, during which California residents have been ordered to shelter in place at home. Entire segments of our community cannot feel safe at home because they are vulnerable to unconstitutional searches and arrests by ICE.''
Michael Kaufman, a senior staff attorney with ACLU SoCal, noted that although the Fourth Amendment does not permit ICE to enter a home without a warrant or valid consent, ICE allegedly "is impersonating police to make an end run around the Constitution.''
In a statement to NBCLA, an ICE spokesperson said that their "officers and agents are law enforcement officers conducting law enforcement duties and are recognized as such."
"The word ‘POLICE’ is a universally recognized symbol of law enforcement in most cultures, an important distinction given that many of the individuals with whom ICE interacts are not native English speakers," Alexx R. Pons, ICE spokesperson, said. "Given the inherently dangerous nature of ICE officers’ work, their ability to quickly establish their identity as sworn law enforcement personnel could potentially mean the difference between life and death."
Editor's Note: This article has been updated with a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).