Court Rules against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in ‘Knock and Arrest’ Tactics

By Connie Martinez

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights has issued a statement announcing certain acts committed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are unlawful as used against the immigrant community.

Federal Judge Otis D. Wright, II, granted a summary judgment in a set of claims with concerns pertaining to ICE’s “practice of ‘knock-and-talk’ in ‘Kidd v Mayorkas,’” a class action “lawsuit challenging ICE’s deceptive home arrest practices in Los Angeles and the surrounding region,” the press release states.

The “lawsuit was filed on behalf of two community organizations, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), who represent the class, and an individual, Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd,” said the group.

The statement quotes Stephanie Padilla, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, who said, “Everyone should feel safe in their own home, regardless of immigration status. Because ICE never has judicial warrants, they primarily rely on ‘knock and talks’ to conduct home arrests.”

According to the press statement, “The order gives examples of four instances from February 2017 to April 2020, where ICE unlawfully entered constitutionally protected areas around a community member’s home, called the curtilage, with only an administrative immigration warrant and not a warrant signed by a judge.”

Within this, ICE agents found alternative ways to enter the home residence for an arrest that didn’t consist of “knocking” but rather going through their backyards for example, asserts the statement.

“CHIRLA is proud to have represented community members who were subject to illegal arrests by ICE in their own homes,” said CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas. 

Salas added, “In addition to tearing countless families apart in their own homes where the Constitution’s protections extend to all, ICE’s ‘knocking and arresting’ method diverted limited community resources and harmed CHIRLA’s ability to provide services to the community. We hope and expect that this practice will soon end across the entire country.”

“The order rejects ICE’s argument that (it) could enter the private areas surrounding community members’ homes to knock on the door because other members of the public, such as a neighbor or delivery person, routinely do so,” the press release reads.

According to the court, said the statement, if the purpose of ICE was merely to ask questions of residents with their consent then it is permitted. However, according to the source, “the Constitution prohibits them from encroaching upon these areas…with the intent to arrest.”

“It is a basic human right for immigrants to feel safe in their own homes and live without fear,” said Lizbeth Abeln, Interim Director at the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, adding, “This lawsuit is a huge victory for our community and ICIJ will continue to do our work so immigrants are well equipped and understand their rights. This won’t undo the years of harm done by ICE but it is a good first step towards justice.”

The statement added, “The order clarifies that while the ‘knock-and-talk’ practice, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, is considered constitutional, the practice as defined and executed by ICE is not. Judge Wright puts it plainly stating that ICE’s practice can be more accurately termed ‘knock and arrests’ and ‘violates the Fourth Amendment.’”

The lawsuit was initially filed in April 2020, by the ACLU SoCal, the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Annie Lai, clinical professor of law at UC Irvine School of Law, stated, “We were honored to be a part of the broad coalition that challenged ICE’s illegal home arrest practices.”

The order is extended “to the ICE’s Los Angeles Field Office, which covers the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.”

Giovanni Saarman González, an attorney with Munger, Tolles and Olson LLP, said, “This significant legal victory further clarifies the law around the permissible use of ‘knock and talks.’ The order will curb ICE’s deceptive ‘knock and arrest’ practices and provide meaningful relief to the class and the broader Southern California community. We are thrilled with this result and humbled by the opportunity to participate in this effort to hold ICE accountable.”

About The Author

Connie Martinez is a second-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is majoring in Education with a minor in Public Affairs. Connie hopes to pursue her passion of being a voice for the silenced and wrongfully convicted by becoming a criminal defense attorney. In addition, she hopes to become a policymaker to cultivate an environment for minorities to thrive and be heard. Recognizing and experiencing the misfortunes of a family member being wrongfully incarcerated, she intends to guide and fight for those who have faced similar setbacks of inequity and injustice. In her free time, she enjoys going out with friends and bumping music while going on late night drives.

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