The Immigration and Naturalization Service cannot enter workplaces to look for illegal aliens without a search warrant or the employer's permission, a U.S. district judge in San Jose has ruled.
Judge Robert Aguilar's decision Friday came in response to a class-action suit filed in August, 1982, against the immigration service after California factories were raided as part of a nationwide operation called "Project Jobs."
The 44-page ruling bars immigration agents from going into an office, factory or other workplace without employer consent unless their warrant describes or names a specific person. The judge said that agents may not add the phrase "and others" to specific names.
Aguilar's Northern California district runs from Oxnard to the Oregon border.
Fourth Amendment Cited
Susan Brown, attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said of the decision: "For the first time, it ensures that (federal agents) are operating within the guidelines of the Fourth Amendment." The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees "the right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires search warrants to be based on probable cause.
The legal defense fund argued that workers' rights were violated by the Project Jobs raids because agents did not have warrants and employees were detained because they looked like Latinos.
Nine Cities Involved
The highly publicized one-week sweep of factories in nine cities around the country resulted in 5,400 arrests at 300 job sites in April of 1982. About 500 arrests were in California, according to the legal defense fund.
In July of 1982, the immigration service briefly stopped making similar factory raids in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that questioning all factory workers about their residence status--rather than questioning only individuals about whom the agency had information--was unconstitutional.
The raids were resumed under new guidelines that allowed agents to question workers as long as it was made clear that those being interrogated were not being taken into custody and did not have to answer.
Immigration officials said at the time that a person not under suspicion who incriminated himself by his voluntary answers might be detained.