Civil Rights Groups File Lawsuit Over Van Nuys Workplace Raid After ICE Bars Attorneys From Immigration Interviews

February 14, 2008 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — The ACLU of Southern California, National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center asked a federal judge today to order U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow attorneys for workers arrested in last Thursday’s raid in Van Nuys to represent their clients at their immigration interviews. Over the past few days, ICE officials barred attorneys from accompanying their clients to the hearings, where workers were interviewed and then charged with immigration violations.

ICE’s policy violates federal rules that allow people being interviewed by immigration agents to be accompanied by an attorney, at no expense to the government. Last week, the ACLU/SC and other groups offered to provide free legal screenings and assistance to nearly 200 people arrested in the raid.

“ICE has repeatedly prevented our attorneys from accompanying their clients into these interviews,” said Stacy Tolchin, an attorney and member of the National Lawyers Guild. “We are deeply concerned that ICE is trying to deport people without due process, as required under our nation’s basic laws.”

Ahilan Arulanantham, a staff attorney at the ACLU/SC, added that “federal law makes crystal clear what should have been obvious – in our country, people have a right to bring an attorney with them when they face interrogation by government agents. Our lawsuit seeks to hold the government accountable for its blatantly illegal conduct.”

The groups are also concerned that ICE agents are using coercive tactics against detainees during interviews to obtain information that can later be used against them. In a letter last week to ICE Field Office Director James Hayes, the ACLU/SC and other civil rights groups informed ICE of the offer of free legal representation and asked that ICE not deport these workers or ask them to give up their rights to representation until they had been given the opportunity to meet with attorneys.

The ACLU/SC and other groups are investigating potential civil rights violations during the raid, and detained workers and witnesses have reported evidence potential violations, including:

  • Mass handcuffing of workers, even though there was no threat of violence and agents had no evidence workers posed a threat to their safety.
  • Workers who attempted to call family members to arrange child care or seek assistance told advocates that agents prevented them from using their cell phones.
  • Threatening gestures by ICE agents, such as holding their hands to their guns

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