According to new laws set forth by federal authorities, immigration officers must now follow new procedures when they enter private homes during a search. The rules were approved last month by a federal judge, after the settlement of a lengthy class-action lawsuit. Immigration attorneys in New Jersey say that the updated procedures may serve to protect immigrants new to America from illegal search and seizure.
Under the country’s common law knock-and-announce rule, a federal officer acting on a search warrant is not legally allowed to simply force his or her way into a residence. Officers must instead announce their presence, and identify themselves as law enforcement officials searching for a suspect, evidence, or another pre-approved intent. After announcing themselves, the officers must give the occupants a reasonable amount of time to answer before forcing entrance into the home.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the knock-and-announce law protects U.S. citizens in their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and safety in their own homes. Although search and seizure is a necessary part of the law enforcement process in procuring evidence and hindering criminals, people living in the country have the right to security and safety from unnecessary or unjustified police presence. The Supreme Court has touted the benefits of the knock-and-announce rule in protecting officers and occupants from violation of rights or privacy, accidental injury, and property damage or liability. However, the Supreme Court and most state courts allow officers to disregard the knock-and-announce law if doing so would compromise the investigation or the search; namely in scenarios where the suspect is believed to be concealed within a house.
When several Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were named in a class-action suit led by eight Latino families from Long Island and Westchester County, the federal authorities voted to update current knock-and-announce laws to better reflect the cultural diversity that shapes America today. The lawsuit was filed when officers entered the homes of the families without warrants or legal justification during raids in 2006 and 2007. In at least one case, officers burst into the house with their weapons drawn. Immigration lawyers from New Jersey report that the lawsuit was settled when the federal government was ordered to pay $1 million in damages, and $36,000 to each plaintiff involved.
According to the new rules, federal agents executing a search warrant must now ask permission to enter a home in the resident’s native language. The updated procedure will ensure that occupants understand the agents’ request, and are not frightened by a commanding police presence in a potentially non-threatening situation. It also allows occupants a chance to refuse access to federal agents, without fear of being misunderstood. Immigrants new to the country or without a working knowledge of English will not be forced to respond under pressure to unknown demands.
The experienced immigration attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, provide legal counsel and representation to anyone new to this country who feels that their rights have been violated, by the federal government or any other entity.Please insert posts info here.