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Federal Judge Declares Key Immigration Enforcement Tactic Unconstitutional


A federal judge said that one way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often arrests people who are in the country illegally is against the Constitution.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright said that ICE’s “knock and talk” method of arresting illegal immigrants at their homes must stop. This was a win for migrant rights activists who said that agents rarely got warrants and instead started relying on migrants answering the door voluntarily.

The Los Angeles Times was the first to report on the decision. It only affects ICE’s Los Angeles field office, which is in charge of most of Southern California.

This method was used a lot by ICE’s Los Angeles field office; an expert witness said it was used for at least 8% of all searches in 2022. An article in the Los Angeles Times says that this is one of the four main ways that the agency makes arrests.

Wright didn’t agree with ICE’s point of view that its agents could go into private places protected by the Constitution to knock on doors, just like mail carriers and delivery people. In his ruling, he said that agents would go to the home of a migrant without permission and “generally state that they are ‘conducting an investigation,'” but they wouldn’t say what their real reason was for being there.

“Despite often stating a different purpose for their visit, the true ‘intent’ and ‘actual purpose’ behind a ‘knock and talk’ is to make an immigration arrest,” Wright said.

Wright’s ruling said that agents could go into generally protected areas if they really wanted to talk, but they said they couldn’t do that “without a judicial warrant with the intent to arrest the occupant.”

“The more accurate title,” Wright said, “would be ‘knock and arrests.'”

One of the groups that argued against the strategy in the case was the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. They were happy with the decision and said it would stop an unconstitutional practice.

“No matter their immigration status, everyone should feel safe in their own home.” “ICE rarely has court orders to arrest people at home, so they mostly use ‘knock and talks’,” Stephanie Padilla, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, said in a press release. “This order should significantly curtail ICE’s unconstitutional home arrest practices.”

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