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Government settles immigration suit alleging rights violations

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The news media has reportedly extensively on the government's increased efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. But those in Washington were dealt a blow when the government agreed to settle an immigration case brought by a Yale Law School clinic on behalf of immigrants captured in a 2007 raid. The lawsuit fought the immigrants' deportation by alleging constitutional violations.

During the mid-2000s, a northeast city mulled over the idea of issuing identification cards to all of its residents, regardless of their immigration status. In 2007, the city passed the measure. A couple of days later, however, the government instituted a sweeping city-wide raid, arresting people they believed were in the country illegally. The lawsuit argued that the raid's timing--so soon after the identification card measure--evinced the government's intent to get back at immigrants.

Immigration officials captured 29 suspected illegal immigrants at their places of residence. But 11 of those detained argued that the government's actions violated their constitutional rights. In particular, the lawsuit stated that the arresting officers lacked warrants, did not explain why the immigrants were being taken into custody and failed to inform them of their rights.

Under the terms of the settlement, reached last month, the immigrants will remain in the United States and the government will pay them $350,000. Although the government did not admit any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement--in fact, it maintains that the raids targeted immigrants slated for deportation and were legal--the settlement does emphasize the significance of constitutional rights in immigration cases.

Source: The New York Times, "U.S. to Pay Immigrants Over Raids," Kirk Semple, Feb. 14, 2012.

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