SAN FRANCISCO – The ACLU of Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today seeking records relating to recent enforcement actions conducted by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU-NC has requested expedited processing because of the urgency of this issue to members of several northern California communities.
The ACLU-NC is seeking documents regarding the recent ICE actions undertaken as part of “Operation Return to Sender” in Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, San Benito, San Francisco, and Fresno counties to name a few. Operation Return to Sender was launched in May 2006 and has led to the arrest of at least 13,000 people nationwide.
Some of the abusive practices reported extensively in the press include: illegal entries and searches by ICE agents, misidentification of ICE agents as member of local police forces, inappropriate tactics related to children including conducting round-ups near schools and leaving minor children unattended upon their parents’ arrest, ethnic profiling, violations of due process and abusive treatment.
“When the Mayor of Richmond describes the ICE raids as imposing a ‘state of terror’ and parents are afraid to send their children to school, civil rights organizations must investigate possible civil rights violations,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney of the ACLU-NC. “The first step is to see all the records regarding the planning and implementation of Operation Return to Sender in northern California.”
The ACLU has reviewed a number of complaints concerning ICE conduct that raise serious concerns about racial profiling and other constitutional violations. Finding out the truth about the raids—which are reportedly resulting in the arrest and deportation not only of “fugitives” with criminal histories, but many residents whose only unlawful actions relate to being in the country without authorization—is particularly important as Congress takes on the question of how to address the vast numbers of undocumented immigrants who currently live and work in the United States.
“If the federal government is going to spend taxpayers dollars on a very questionable enforcement action, the public has the right to know the details of how it was implemented -- and particularly how local law enforcement agencies in cities like San Francisco, which has a policy of not co-operating with ICE, were involved,” said Tim Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Mass added: “We are seeking expedited processing because of the urgency of this issue. ICE enforcement actions have been widely reported in the press and have raised serious concerns about federal misconduct. The reports have caused widespread anxiety in communities throughout northern California.” If expedited processing is granted, the ACLU FOIA request would be processed "as soon as practicable," and prior to the agency's large backlog of less urgent requests.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is accepting calls from members of the public who believe they were victims of abusive and unlawful ICE enforcement tactics. The ACLU-NC will be working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to evaluate information from the public as part of their investigation into the raids.
FOIA Letter to ICE (March 6, 2007)