By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
We have all heard the horror stories of the Gestapo-type raids by the ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) officers storming into the homes of alleged undocumented immigrants. Most of the time, it seems they come in the early morning when the sun is barely starting to light up the sky, and most people in the homes are still asleep.
In case you have not bothered to read the stories about the abusive and cold-blooded raids the ICE cops conduct to terrorize the hard-working undocumented immigrants, here is just a brief explanation.
The ICE agents come banging on the door, unconcerned that they don’t have the authority to enter unless permitted by residents or have a warrant and probable cause. They enter the home with the intent of detaining and arresting as many people in the home as possible. If you have no outstanding warrants and aren’t wanted by the police, but happen to be caught in the crossfire, too bad, you are considered collateral victims of the raid.
They come dressed in dark SWAT-like uniforms with bulletproof vests, faces covered by facemasks, and attack in large numbers so they can quickly swarm and overtake the “suspects” in the home. They do not care who answers the door, they simply force their way into the home and start pushing and shoving people around, using excessive force. But who cares? These suspects are only undocumented immigrants.
Sometimes shouting, “POLICE! or “POLICA!” as they enter, they start going from room to room, dragging and pushing unsuspecting people around. They come with chains and handcuffs, carrying automatic weapons, multi-clip handguns, and any other weapon they can find to control and detain individuals.
The chains they bring are to link the undocumented immigrants with foot chains connected to hand chains and cuffs. You would think they are arresting one of the Top 10 Most Wanted by the U. S. Marshalls or the FBI. By using chain shackles on the raid victims, it is a guarantee these ‘hardened criminals’ will not try to escape.
They deserve to be treated this way because, after all, they are breaking the law. At least that is what the extremists and racists who despise these people think. They do not deserve any kind of civility, or even civil rights. ICE agents must believe it is okay to push, shove, use excessive force and treat these immigrants like dogs.
Don’t try to explain that the ICE cops may have the wrong house, because they simply don’t care. If there are brown people in the home, they must be undocumented immigrants. Never mind that, too often, Latino-American citizens know what it feels like to be chained and arrested for being in their own homes.
Never mind that it is illegal to deport or detain citizens for immigration violations.
The Associated Press, in a month-long investigation, recently identified 55 such cases where American citizens were detained or deported. However, immigration lawyers claim there could be hundreds more.
With the black helicopters flying overhead, flashing emergency lights on every police and ICE vehicle on the scene, ICE agents and local police running around, it is a scene right out of the movies. A horror movie if you happen to be in one of these raids.
That is why I was caught completely off guard by a news story I read in The New York Times. It was a story about an ICE raid in a home in San Luis, Arizona.
It seems the ICE officers came to the door, looking for fugitives from the law, and demanded that the people at home move out of the way. At that point, five armed ICE agents moved into the home. The agents accused the people in the home of harboring “undocumented immigrants.”
As the heavily armed cops with their bulletproof vests started their search of the house, the owner cried out, “Is this ‘Candid Camera’?” The Times article reported that the irritated lead officer yelled his response. “No, it isn’t ‘Candid Camera,’ you need to move to the center of the room.”
Considering all the firepower around them, James and Sheila Slaughter complied with their orders and moved to the center of the room. At that point, Mr. Slaughter, completely upset and believing his constitutional rights were being violated, shouted, “Look fellas, do you guys realize that I’m a U. S. Customs K-9 officer at the San Luis port?”
Mr. Slaughter said the lead officer’s eyes got as big as silver dollars, stopped in his tracks, and immediately he and the other officer’s in the home quickly exited the house.
According to the KSWT-TV website in Yuma, Arizona, which also reported on the blotched raid, Shelia Slaughter complained, “Here they invaded my home, think of this, my children weren’t home. What if my husband hadn’t of been home? What would they have done to me?”
Because of the raid on their home, the Slaughter’s have filed a lawsuit against the officers who burst into their home. They are asking for $500,000 from each defendant. They also complain that the raid “aggravated Sheila’s hypertension.”
Moreover, what do you think was the basis of their lawsuit? The attorney hired by the Slaughters to sue the Department of Homeland Security cited “a violation of the fourth amendment for protection against unreasonable searches.”
Their attorney stated in the Slaughters’ claim something so obvious that I find it ironic and unbelievable, and just shows the double standard we have here in America. “You must have probable cause or a warrant to enter a home in America,” the attorney asserted.
Please excuse me, but what am I missing here? The attorney says you have to have probable cause or a warrant to enter a home in America. Am I to assume the homes of undocumented immigrants do not count? That is what I find outrageous, and a double standard of justice.
There are hundreds of cases of raids by ICE cops where they did not have a warrant, much less probable cause to enter the homes of undocumented immigrants. Regardless of what the hateful, fear mongering, racists say (along with many peple, not racists, who are simply afraid of undocumented immigrants based on second-hand soundbites and misperceptions), everyone in the United States is protected by the Constitution. It is not selective. It applies to all.
Imagine if every undocumented immigrant arrested had a lawyer to declare on his or her behalf that in America, you have to have probable cause or a warrant to enter their home and if you didn’t, we are going to sue you?
Imagine if every innocent victim of one of these heinous raids would sue the Department of Homeland Security for $500,000 for each cop or agent involved in a raid of their home.
Why is it we allow a double standard of justice to exist in cases like this? Why is it wrong for ICE cops to enter the Slaughter home and not the home of someone who is not associated with criminals or does not have a criminal record?
In 2007, of the 97,000 undocumented immigrants picked up in Florida, 73 per cent of them had no criminal record. Yet, ICE fugitive operations teams increased their deportations by 20 per cent the same year.
I read the story of the Slaughter raid and found it hard to swallow or even believe. I was puzzled by the set of facts in the case. I fail to understand how an injustice to one family is not an injustice to several other hundred families.
The sad thing is that these raids of injustice continue, creating the cruelest outcome one can imagine. Just as Mrs. Slaughter worried about her children, the children of the undocumented immigrants are usually the most affected victims.
One night they go to sleep peacefully, only to wake up in the middle of the night by flashlights, cops yelling and screaming obscenities, cops pushing and shoving people out of bed, frightening little children who must think they are having a nightmare. And the nightmare will likely continue long after raid’s conclusion.
The saddest part of this scenario is the fact the raids separating families have affected hundreds of children - almost three million children. Kids waking up to see their daddy or mommy shackled with chains and masked men pushing and prodding them out the door.
What do you think is running through the minds of these little children? For many of them, there is no doubt the horror of that night will linger in their memory.
Is this the country to which we pledge our allegiance? Is this how we want justice served to some of the people some of the time? Isn’t it odd how we allow a double standard of justice to apply to people like the Slaughters, but not to other ICE raid victims named Martinez or Sanchez?
When will the Obama Administration live up to the promises made by candidate Obama to stop the raids? When does the Obama Administration uniformly apply the law to everyone in our country?
Mr. President, when will these morally reprehensible raids stop?
Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries- Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212
(This article previously was posted at Latino Landscape)