Biden Administration Suffers Defeat: ICE ‘Police Impersonation Involving Knock-and-Talk’ Schemes to Arrest Migrants Ruled Illegal

Two weeks ago, a federal judge declared unconstitutional the “knock-and-talk” tactics carried out in a sneaky way by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against undocumented migrants.

In what appears as a reversal of fate for migrants residing in California, a place habitually known as a Sanctuary State for illegal immigration, it is surprising to learn Biden’s ICE Administration has engaged in shady practices to arrest migrants, and have them deported.

California has the highest percentage of migrants in any state, with 28% of its population identifying as immigrants in 2023.

At the heart of the court’s key decision involves ICE agents who would interact with migrants in a non-confrontational manner to win their trust and to learn their immigration status. The unsuspecting migrants, targeted by ICE, were eligible for arrest for being in the country illegally.

The ruling was handed down on May 16, by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II of California. Wright was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

Four years ago, a lawsuit was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, representing Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd, a resident of Hacienda Heights and a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Additionally, two community organizations were involved in the litigation. The claim stated that officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency commonly wore uniforms emblazoned with the word “police” and would only reveal their true identity as federal immigration officers after they arrested a migrant.

In his ruling, Wright wrote, “Considering the policies and practices governing how ICE conducts its ‘knock-and-talks,’ the more accurate title for certain law enforcement operations would be ‘knock and arrests’.” He added, “This order serves to vacate those unlawful policies and practices.”

knock and talk us marshals. public domain photo.
knock and talk us marshals. Public Domain photo.

Knock-and-Talk Fourth Amendment Violations

The “knock-and-talk” tactics have raised concerns about potential violations of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Judge Wright’s decision to declare these tactics as unconstitutional sets a significant precedent for reevaluating the practices of ICE and ensuring that the rights of individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are respected.

“Everyone should feel safe in their own home, regardless of immigration status. Because ICE never has judicial warrants they primarily rely on ‘knock-and-talk’ to conduct home arrests,” said Stephanie Padilla, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. She added, “This order should curtail ICE’s unconstitutional home arrest practices.”

The lawsuit, Kidd v. Mayorkas, stems from a 2018 incident involving an immigration agent and, as mentioned, a migrant named Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd, who was in the U.S. under temporary protective status.

According to the Orange County Register, Kidd reported that the agent approached his home in the Los Angeles area with a photo allegedly of a “dangerous man out to get” them. However, by the end of the encounter, Kidd was arrested and transported to a detention facility in San Bernardino, California.

Summary Judgement

Judge Wright granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in his official capacity. This landmark ruling by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II underscores the importance of upholding constitutional rights, particularly in the context of immigration enforcement.

This ruling also highlights the role of the judiciary in holding government agencies accountable and safeguarding civil liberties. By granting the motion for summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Judge Wright has sent a clear message about the obligation to adhere to legal standards in immigration enforcement.

The Kidd VS Mayorkas decision may have broader implications for how ICE conducts its operations and the measures it takes to ensure compliance with the Constitution and the rule of law.

Sneaky Tactics

The lawsuit, Kidd v. Mayorkas, stems from a 2018 incident involving an immigration agent and an immigrant named Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd, who was in the U.S. under temporary protective status.

Kidd said the agent approached his home in the LA area with a photo allegedly of a “dangerous man out to get” them. Kidd was arrested and transported to a San Bernardino detention facility.

Judge Wright articulated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were violating the Fourth Amendment by employing a method known as “knock-and-talks” to persuade individuals targeted for arrest to leave their residences.

Notably, Judge Wright emphasized the legality of this approach in cases involving criminal arrest warrants.Furthermore, Judge Wright reasoned that given the civil nature of deportation orders, agents tasked with executing such orders do not possess the same level of authority to enter a suspect’s premises as compared to officers serving criminal arrest warrants.

Wright’s judgment referenced an ICE handbook that states neither a “warrant for arrest of [an] alien nor a warrant of removal authorizes officers to enter the target’s residence or anywhere else where the target has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” He emphasized that officers must obtain clear, voluntary consent to enter a property where reasonable privacy is expected.

Former immigration Judge Matthew O’Brien criticized the knock-and-talk ruling, telling the Washington Times that Wright misinterpreted the law. “It’s absurd to say that ICE can’t engage in investigative procedures,” O’Brien stated.

pro-immigration protest. image by stocksnap from pixabay
Pro-immigration protest. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

NewsBlaze Legal Affairs Reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]

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