In the Matter of María de Jesus Ortiz Mejía and Other Respondents (El Balazo cases)
On the morning of May 2, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a coordinated raid on the El Balazo taquerías, a chain of eleven restaurants in the Bay Area. Although ICE was ostensibly searching for documents relating to tax evasion and harboring by the restaurants’ owners, the agents did not limit their search to documents. Instead, armed agents seized all the workers found on site and interrogated them at length about their immigration status. The ICE agents did not show the workers a warrant or explain what was happening.
They seized the workers without any individualized suspicion and subjected them to coercive interrogation tactics, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and ICE’s own regulations. In the end, ICE arrested a total of 63 workers. Far from being treated as witnesses and victims of employment violations, these workers were put in removal proceedings. The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, along with Morrison & Foerster LLP, Dolores Street Community Services, and the Law Office of Rosy H. Cho, is representing many of the workers arrested that day in their immigration proceedings, seeking suppression of the unlawfully gathered evidence and termination of their proceedings.