On the night of October 20, 2010, Angel Escobar and Jorge Sarmiento were in their beds in their small, two-bedroom apartment in the Clairmont complex in Nashville. Several roomates and friends were in other rooms. The doors and windows were all shut and locked. Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door and voices shouting "Police!" and "Policia!" When no one answered, the agents tried to force the door open. Scared, occupants hid. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began hitting objects against the bedroom windows, trying to break in. Without a search warrant and without consent, the ICE agents eventually knocked in the front door and shattered a window, shouting racial slurs and storming into the bedrooms, holding guns to some people’s heads. When asked if they had a warrant, one agent reportedly said, "We don't need a warrant, we're ICE," and, gesturing to his genitals, "the warrant is coming out of my balls."
The Fourth Amendment strictly prohibits warrantless intrusions into private homes and the Constitution's protections apply to both citizens and non-citizens alike. In the absence of a judicially authorized warrant, there must be voluntary and knowing consent; ICE officers forcing themselves into someone's home does not constitute consent.
The ACLU and ACLU of Tennessee this week filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of fifteen residents of the apartment complex who were subjected to this large-scale, warrantless raid by ICE agents and Metro Nashville police officers.
Among the plaintiffs are U.S. citizens, including a child detained and interrogated while playing soccer on the playground simply because of the color of his skin. Looking Latino and speaking Spanish is not enough to justify probable cause for questioning and arresting a person. Another plaintiff was carted away in handcuffs in front of his frightened and crying children.
Unfortunately, the Clairmont raid is not an isolated incident. As the Department of Homeland Security and its enforcement arm, ICE, expand their aggressive immigration enforcement policies, all too often the constitutional rights afforded to everyone living in the United States are violated. Even as ICE carries out its mission, it must act in accordance with the law and in a manner that is humane.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misidentified who was present in the bedroom when the raid began. It was Angel Escobar and Jorge Sarmiento. In addition the men whom ICE agents threatened with guns to their heads were Jesus Villalobos and Javier Deras, not Angel Enrique and Jesus Antonio.