NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of a warrantless raid in Nashville, Tennessee, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officers. ICE and MNPD agreed to pay $310,000 to settle all claims, and ICE granted the noncitizen plaintiffs deferred action status for seven years.
The case, Escobar v. Gaines, stemmed from a 2010 raid in which armed ICE and MNPD agents in full SWAT gear descended upon an apartment complex at night that was home to mostly Latino residents. The lawsuit alleged that agents and police stormed into and searched homes without a single warrant or consent, shouted racial slurs, and held guns to some people's heads. Residents were detained without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe they had engaged in any criminal activity, and no one was ever charged with a criminal violation as a result of the raid.
The ACLU's Immigrants’ Rights Project, ACLU of Tennessee, and firms of Ozment Law and Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. brought the lawsuit on behalf of numerous residents, including U.S. citizens.
"A person should never have to go through what we did," said Marvin Benjamin Lopez Raxcaco, one of the plaintiffs. "It was terrifying, and hopefully this settlement will stop this from happening to others in the future."
Plaintiffs sued ICE and MNPD for, among other things, conspiracy to violate their rights to be free from unlawful searches and seizures, and discriminatory conduct.
"This settlement sends a strong message to law enforcement across Tennessee and nationwide that the Constitution demands all people be treated fairly under the law, regardless of their skin color," said ACLU attorney Andre Segura. "Agents cannot trample the Constitution because of their stereotypes and assumptions about someone's immigration status."
Related settlements have already been reached with private defendants, and the agreement announced today with the U.S. government and Nashville police brings the legal fight to a close.
"Every American should jealously guard against the excesses of government in violating the basic freedoms from warrantless searches and unauthorized home entries — no matter to whom it happens," said Elliott Ozment of Ozment Law.
"More important than the monetary recovery in this settlement is the message it sends that everyone should be treated fairly under the law," said Caryn Lederer of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.
More information about this case is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/escobar-v-gaines