SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that U.S. immigration agents routinely violate some constitutional rights during sweeps for illegal aliens.
But the court held that such searches can be made without agents having to provide specific names of suspects in warrants.
In a case involving a union and five employees of Latino ancestry, the judges sharply narrowed a preliminary injunction issued by district court in 1982 against the Immigration and Naturalization Service and encouraged the lower court to hold trial on the merits.
The case originated in San Jose when INS agents conducted searches and made arrests in factories and other places where it was believed illegal aliens were employed. One week in April, 1982, was specifically cited, a period when sweeps were staged in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The workers and the International Molders and Allied Workers Union Local 164 took the INS to court, complaining of the raids and challenging the constitutionality of what was officially called "factory surveys."
The workers and their union received a preliminary injunction, 18 months after the motion was filed, from U.S. District Court Judge Robert P. Aguilar. The INS appealed Aguilar's refusal to stay the order pending appeal.
The appeals court appeared to be critical of the fact that it has been four years since the action was brought, with still "no encouraging assurances that the case would proceed to trial in the near future." The preliminary injunction was ordered ended Oct. 28.
The appellate court swept aside as "weak" the agency's argument that there were only "sporadic violations of official policy by individual agents" in the sweeps. Rather, the judges held, there was solid evidence that supported Aguilar's finding of "evident systematic policy and practice of Fourth Amendment violations by INS."
The Fourth Amendment defends the right of people to be free of illegal search and seizure and provides that no warrants will be issued except on probable cause.