MANHATTAN (CN) – On the cusp of raids set to sweep up thousands of immigrant families on Sunday, resistance to the planned mass arrests have been popping out all over. Even among Immigration and Customs Enforcement rank and file, agents are reportedly voicing unease about arresting babies and young children.
Then on Thursday, came the litigation.
Firing the first shot on behalf of four civil rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union demanded due process for refugees in a 26-page complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.
“They seek to prevent imminent deportations in violation of the most basic due process principles: the rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard,” says the complaint, signed by Melinda LeMoine of Munger, Tolles & Olson. “The families and children whom Plaintiffs serve fled their countries within the last five years. But none of them ever had their claims for asylum and related relief heard by an immigration judge. Instead, the government ordered them removed in absentia because they failed to appear in court.”
The groups at the center of the litigation are the New York-based Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, the Los Angeles-based Central American Resource Center, the Santa Ana-based Immigrant Defenders Law Center and the Los Angeles-based Public Counsel.
Representing various clients and constituencies, each alleges the Trump administration’s raids will violate the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act’s prohibitions on deporting refugees to countries where they face persecution and torture.
They seek a judgment ordering a hearing for all families and children who were ordered removed in absentia on or after May 1, 2014, the date various government agencies instituted a policy meant to increase efficiency. Critics call the policy a way for the government to cut corners on their constitutional obligations.
Elsewhere in New York, Attorney General Letitia James reached out to undocumented immigrants to call her 1-800-898-7180 hotline to help determine whether a removal order has been issued against them.
“The Trump administration’s insistence on using migrant families as a political bargaining chip with Congressional leaders is as deplorable as it is un-American,” James said in a fiery statement. “As New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I will do everything in my power to ensure these families’ rights are protected. I will stand up against any threatened incursions on our state’s civil rights because, in America, we value our immigrants.”
Ahead of the planned raids this weekend, several U.S. senators led by Kamala Harris and four other 2020 presidential hopefuls introduced a bill to block immigration raids at schools, churches, hospitals and courthouses except in special circumstances. The bill expands on existing ICE rules and according to supporters will bring consistency across several agencies.