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Tennessee Immigrants Targeted Illegally

November 1, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid at a south Nashville apartment complex has raised concerns with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN). Residents reported that ICE conducted the raid in the manner of a SWAT team, breaking doors and windows to force their way into apartments. They allegedly shouted racial epithets at women and children, and interrogated a 13-year-old child. No warrants were ever presented, and to the advocates' knowledge, no criminal charges have been filed against any of the detainees.

According to ACLU-TN Staff Attorney Tricia Herszfeld, the raid was a mistake and unnecessarily put lives in jeopardy.

"They're saying it's okay to violate the rules or not follow them for this particular group or that particular group. Before you know it, they're going to be coming after whatever group you belong to."

Herszfeld points out that there are no "illegal" people and that immigrants living in the U.S. without proper documentation are not a criminal matter, but must be heard in civil court. Historically, she adds, immigrants have sometimes been scapegoated because they look or sound different.

"People are scared, and they're looking for somebody to blame, and the immigrant up the road who maybe doesn't speak your language and looks a little bit different from you - some people, they're fearful of that."

The Fourth Amendment prohibits warrant-less intrusions into private homes, Herszfeld explains, including the homes of undocumented immigrants. In the absence of a judicially authorized warrant, there must be consent by the residents before police can enter, she says.

Metro Nashville police say the raid was not about immigrants in the country without proper documentation, but was an investigation into gang activities.



Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN