The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) filed an administrative complaint with the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) for having arrested and detained two U.S. Citizens who live in the Denver area, along with several dozen other Spanish-speaking legal residents as they were on a bus on their way to a convention in Omaha, Nebraska. According to an ICE report, the Spanish-speaking ICE officer overheard them speaking in Spanish and suspected that the chartered bus was carrying what she called a “smuggling load,” and what later became understood to mean human smuggling. The ICE officer called for reinforcements who boarded the bus and, even though they were shown valid State of Colorado photo ID cards upon interrogation, they arrested them anyways.
Mark Silverstein, the ACLU Legal Director said, “This is a case of racial profiling and ethnic stereotyping at its very worst. An ICE agent targeted our clients for speaking Spanish in an Omaha fast-food restaurant. Speaking Spanish is not a crime, nor does it provide any basis for immigration officers to start demanding papers or otherwise launch any investigation.” Hans Mayer, an ACLU Cooperating Attorney who also represents the aggrieved parties said, “The ICE officers had no legal basis for boarding the bus and demanding papers…Their suspicion of a so-called ‘smuggling load’ was nothing but a lurid fantasy. ICE officers clearly had no legal grounds for detaining, questioning, or arresting our clients, let alone searching them or keeping them in holding cells.”
The Fourth Amendment applies to ICE officers in the same way it applies to any other law enforcement agency since they cannot forcibly detain persons or demand their papers unless there is a reasonable suspicion of an immigration violation; and the evidence in this case clearly does not amount to reasonable suspicion. Due to the fact that ICE is an agency of the US Government, there is limited legal recourse; yet given the gross negligence that is evidenced by the actions of ICE officers, The ACLU filed a complaint under the Federal Tort Claim Act claiming false arrest, false imprisonment, and battery. In the event the administrative claim is not resolved within six months, the ACLU’s clients will be able to sue in federal court where they will be allowed to pursue claims for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.