Advocacy groups are questioning tactics used by federal immigration officials who conducted raids on Central American families in Georgia earlier this month.
Federal immigration agents used aggressive tactics and didn’t show copies of warrants when entering people’s homes, according to findings in a new report released Thursday by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.
“Based on our interviews and analysis of the raids, we’ve actually concluded that ICE’s conduct during the raids raise several potential constitutional concerns,” said Eunice Cho, staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Starting Jan. 2, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained 121 people from Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Many were Central American families who recently crossed the U.S. border illegally and had final removal orders, federal officials said.
“While ICE has not been given the opportunity to review the report, the agency is committed to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws effectively and sensibly in line with its stated values," said Bryan Cox, ICE spokesman, in a statement.
"ICE conducts targeted enforcement actions in full accordance with federal law and agency policy,” he said. The agency also said warrants are only issued in criminal cases.
The civil rights groups' report said that women who were detained said they were not allowed to contact their lawyers until after they were removed to a family detention center in Texas. Federal officials also didn’t tell the women about a free, nonprofit legal organization at the detention center, the report said.
ICE said detainees who want to have legal representation are allowed to do so, and that the agency doesn't restrict detainees' access to counsel.
Several of the women were under an order of supervision from immigration court and had ankle-monitors that provided Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with their location information, Cho said.
Digna Urias, a mother of a woman who was detained, said officers came to her daughter's home early in the morning.
Speaking through an interpreter, she said ICE agents told her daughter there was a problem with her daughter’s ankle monitor. When her daughter opened the door to the agents, that’s when officers told her that she and her children were being taken, Urias said.
“Our family is devastated,” Urias said. “This situation has affected us so much; it’s not fair that they can treat us like this.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson defended the operation earlier this month.
"I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don’t go far enough," he said in a Jan. 4 statement. "I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities."