Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tactics Used in U.S. Raids Draw Claims of Brutality

From the New York Times:

MIAMI — Advocates for immigrants here demanded an investigation Tuesday into a series of federal raids last month that they said left at least six Guatemalan men bloodied and bruised in a roundup of nearly 100 people.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied all accusations of misconduct by agents in the raids on Nov. 19 in three South Florida counties, noting that the operation focused on sex trafficking and led to charges against seven people and the release of several women.
But lawyers working with other detainees said they were concerned that the agency was using human trafficking laws as a front for broader operations, and a cover for harsh tactics.

“There is a way that these operations should be conducted,” said Jose Rodriguez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Miami-Dade County. “And this is not it.”

At a news conference, Mr. Rodriguez and others said agents had relied on vaguely worded warrants to invade people’s homes and arrest nearly anyone who looked Hispanic. In all, according to the federal agency, 77 illegal immigrants were detained in the operation, and only a handful appear to have been charged with a crime.

In the case involving the accusations of beatings, none of the men have been charged with sex trafficking. Lawyers working with the men said the agents used excessive force: bursting into their home in Homestead about 8:30 p.m., pulling their guns in front of a 4-year-old girl, then forcing all 10 or 11 men inside onto the floor in handcuffs.

No guns or drugs were found. All the men were Guatemalan immigrants, and the advocates said at least six of them arrived at a nearby detention center with bruises and cuts.

The wife of one detainee, the mother of the 4-year-old girl, said she saw agents kick her husband and others while they were on the floor. She declined to give her name because she feared retribution.

Agency officials, in a statement denying the accusations of abuse and the display of a weapon near a child, said they were required to arrest anyone found to be violating immigration law, regardless of the circumstances.

The statement also said the accusations would be forwarded to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility for review.

But the advocates said that was not enough. Witnesses have already been deported, they said, and without a robust investigation by the agency’s inspector general or the United States attorney’s office in Miami, agents who might have violated the law might never be punished.

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