The raid–among the largest in ICE history–culminated with more than 280 arrests.
The Texas branch of the ACLU is suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over an April raid in which ICE officers detained an estimated 280 workers.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas in federal court on Wednesday.
The case centers on ICE’s April raid on a CVE Technology Group factory in Allen, Texas, during which hundreds of workers were detained on-site pending identification. Many of the employees were U.S. citizens yet were still prevented from leaving or communicating with anyone outside.
The ACLU, notes the Star-Telegram, had earlier filed an open records request for the warrant ICE used to conduct the raid. But federal officials declined the request and refused to provide any records. That, says the ACLU, is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
ACLU-Texas attorney David Donatti told the Star-Telegram that obtaining the warrants is necessary in understanding whether the raid and subsequent arrests were lawful. Donatti claims that the ACLU has spoken with several workers who were inside the factory that day, and that what they’ve said suggests that immigration enforcement officers may have violated employees’ rights. For instance, workers say that the CVE Technology Group property was purportedly taken over by “armed” officials,” who made everyone inside—somewhere between 400 and 600 people—follow them to a warehouse. Until they were able to provide identification, nobody was allowed to use their phone or talk to one another.
“We have serious questions about the way this raid was conducted and whether rights were violated,” Donatti said.
While ICE insists it did nothing wrong, the agency has been evasive. It told the ACLU that it couldn’t supply copies of its search warrants because doing so would interfere with active and ongoing investigations.
But Donatti says that the agency’s explanation makes no sense—after all, ICE has already carried out its raids.
“There is no secret here,” Donatti said. “ICE has gone on record, published on its website that it is investigating.”
Donatti further told the Star-Telegram that even if ICE has a plausible reason to deny its FOIA request, it’s legally obligated to explain what that reason is. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, in part, to force ICE into offering its justification in court.
“By filing a lawsuit, we have compelled them to go to court and make that showing to a judge,” he said.
At the time of the raid, KERA News noted that it was the largest investigation and mass detention staged by ICE in nearly a decade.