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SPLC complaint: Families falsely imprisoned after ICE raids

The SPLC today filed claims for damages against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of three families targeted in the aggressive and potentially unconstitutional ICE raids conducted in Atlanta last January.

The claims were filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which allows individuals to collect monetary damages from the federal government based on negligent acts or misconduct by federal employees.

The families, who claim their civil rights were violated during the raids, are seeking to recover damages for the irreparable harm they suffered. Their claims include false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to the claims, ICE agents deceived the families in order to enter their homes in the early morning hours by saying they were police looking for an African-American male criminal suspect. After they entered unlawfully and without producing a warrant, they took some of the family members, including children, and ultimately transported them to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, even though they were all present in the United States under orders of supervision by ICE.

“If our nation’s largest law enforcement agency is permitted to conduct warrantless raids by tricking some of the most vulnerable people in our society, none of us are safe in our homes,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director of the SPLC. “Tactics like these needlessly traumatize our communities. Militaristic raids must stop immediately if we are ever to have a humane immigration system.”

The claimants have since been released from the family detention center where they were wrongfully imprisoned but not without suffering severe emotional distress and, in some cases, health consequences.

“I was threatened, humiliated, and injured when these officers invaded my home that January morning,” said Rene Morales, a complainant whose sister was detained in the raids. “Now, we live in fear that any law enforcement officer could come bang down our door and rip apart our family again.”

According to an SPLC report issued earlier this year, the ICE raids in Atlanta on Jan. 2 resulted in the detention of 121 immigrants, all women and children. Over the last eight years, thousands of men, women and children have been rounded up in ICE raids and incarcerated at prison-like detention facilities across the country.

A federal court recently ordered ICE to release internal documents about the 2016 raids as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the SPLC in January. The SPLC, with Alston & Bird, sued the federal government for these records in order to understand how and why ICE pursued immigrant families with permission to be in the country during the Atlanta raids.