October 19, 2011
NASHVILLE — Fifteen residents of a Nashville apartment complex sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers Wednesday over what they said were violations of their constitutional rights during a raid last year.
The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and claims ICE officers, along with Metro police, entered homes without warrants, consent or probable cause.
It alleged the raid was part of a conspiracy with the owners of the Clairmont Apartments to rid the complex of Latinos. All but one of the plaintiffs are Latino.
The suit claimed the officers violated several constitutional rights and seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory damages.
ICE and Metro’s deputy legal director both said they do not comment on pending litigation.
According to the suit, in early 2010, the Clairmont Apartments were sold in bankruptcy proceedings and taken over by a company that allowed conditions to deteriorate in an effort to force out current residents, many of whom were Latino.
The company abandoned its onsite offices, hired a “notoriously harsh” security company, allowed two buildings to lose hot water and saw an immigration raid that led to at least 20 detentions but no criminal arrests, the suit said.
The suit said ICE and Metro Gang Unit officers on Oct. 20, 2010, broke into apartments and held unarmed adults at gunpoint, shouting obscenities and racial epithets at them.
At a news conference announcing the suit, ACLU of Tennessee director Hedy Weinberg said her group respects the right of the United States to control immigration, but the rights to due process and equal protection apply to everyone.
“Looking Latino is not probable cause,” she said.
Megan Macaraeg with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said she was called to the apartments when the raid started.
“It was like nothing I had ever seen,” she said. Describing how she came to the U.S. to escape repression in the Philippines in 1974, she called the raid “personally appalling to me.”
Another federal suit was filed earlier this month by four Clairmont residents claiming similar rights violations during a smaller raid that took place Oct. 1, 2010.