If you think the days of the Wild West are long gone, well then think again. Gunslingers and armed men run around busting into homes and guess what its legal. It’s called “knock and talk.” Check out this story from Arizona.
When Law Flies Out the Door
By Edward Schumacher-Matos
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Jimmy Slaughter and his wife, Sheila, were folding laundry last summer
in their Yuma, Ariz., home when the knock came at the door.
Seven uniformed federal agents with bulletproof vests and guns stood outside.
“What’s up, fellas?” Slaughter, a retired Marine, said he asked as he
opened the screen door. Five of the armed agents walked in without
asking permission, he said.
“My wife said, ‘Is this “Candid Camera”?’ and that kind of ticked off
[one of the agents] a little bit, and he says, ‘No ma’am, you need to
step back.’ ” She was ordered to stand in the middle of the living
room as the agents, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, began
searching the house for a Hispanic woman. They had no court warrant.
That was when Slaughter surprised them by announcing that he was an
officer with an ICE sister agency, Customs and Border Protection. The
agents, having had the wrong address, left, but the scare was such
that Sheila spent several days in an intensive-care unit for
hypertension. Now Jimmy Slaughter is suing.
It would be easy to dismiss the episode as isolated, but 100
seven-member teams of ICE agents across the country are regularly
making similar house calls, usually in the pre-dawn hours, in
SWAT-like raids with shotguns and automatic rifles, sometimes crawling
through open windows. In place of search warrants issued by a judge,
ICE agents carry administrative warrants issued by one of their own
officials that require that they “knock and talk” to gain entry into a
home, a policy often abused.
The residents are usually immigrants, often with limited English and
little knowledge of their rights. These ICE teams are looking for
fugitive unauthorized immigrants who have been ordered out of the
country. Other ICE teams invade homes in search of immigrant gang
members or sex offenders.
A new report from the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School
in New York offers the first detailed insight into the home raids.
Overseen by regular police officers and police professionals, the
report, based on ICE records obtained through Freedom of Information
Act lawsuits, uncovers a pattern of ICE behavior that raises the
question of what kind of nation we want to be.
Proponents of harsh immigration enforcement often forget that it is
the Fourth Amendment, and not some liberal court, that specifically
prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” and demands that police
get warrants based upon “probable cause, supported by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and
the persons or things to be seized.”
Courts have ruled that the amendment applies to illegal immigrants,
too, and for more reasons than fairness. How can you tell by looking
if someone is undocumented? We might all end up like the Slaughters.
The ubiquitous demand becomes: “Your papers, please.”
In the brouhaha over racial profiling and Harvard professor Skip
Gates, Latinos are included almost as an afterthought. But the
profiling involved in the home raids is clearer and more insidious.
The Cardozo study examined 700 arrests between 2006 and 2008 on Long
Island and in New Jersey and found that agents said they had not
received informed consent to enter the homes in 86 percent of the Long
Island cases and 24 percent of the New Jersey ones. Conflicting
information in the New Jersey arrest records suggests that the
reported consent there was often fabricated or misreported, the
Cardozo study says.
Two-thirds of the arrests were happenstance — they were mostly of
Latinos whose only crime was a civil one of working here illegally.
“The high percentage of collateral arrests is consistent with
allegations that ICE agents are using home raids for purported targets
as a pretext to enter homes” and arrest as many people as they can to
meet quotas that in 2006 were increased eightfold to 1,000 a year per
team, the report said.
Violations were so flagrant on Long Island that local police withdrew
their support and accused ICE of being reckless and dangerous, and of
undermining a relationship of trust with the Latino community that had
been helping to reduce crime. Mounting evidence elsewhere suggests
that the raids are out of control nationally.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has rightly discontinued
the quotas, but she has not stopped the home raids. They are part of
an enforcement strategy begun under President George W. Bush to
convince doubters to support needed broader immigration reform. But
the problem is with the tactics. Home arrests should be a last resort
to go after genuinely criminal immigrants, and conducted only with