Full text of complaint
ADC Press Release
December 17, 2003
ADC Joins In Lawsuit Challenging use of NCIC Database in Immigration Enforcement
WASHINGTON, DC Dec. 17 - Civil rights and immigrant defense organizations are filing suit today in federal court in New York to challenge a post-September 11 initiative by Attorney General John Ashcroft and the U.S. Department of Justice to enlist state and local police in the routine enforcement of federal immigration laws. The suit alleges that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have unlawfully entered civil immigration information into a federal criminal database, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), accessed by state and local police millions of times each day, subjecting immigrants to the risk of unlawful arrest by state and local police.
"Co-opting state and local police to make immigration arrests undermines public safety and encourages racial profiling," said Raul Yzaguirre, President and CEO of National Council of La Raza, one of the plaintiff organizations. "It makes immigrant victims and witnesses afraid to report crimes and assist police investigations, diverts law enforcement resources from other policing priorities, and entangles untrained officers in the complexities of immigration law."
"Some of our members have been the victims of crime, including violent crimes like assault, but now they are afraid to interact with the police for fear that they may be deported," said Oscar Paredes of the Latin American Workers Project, another plaintiff organization. "Who can blame them? Ashcroft's new policy encourages every local cop on the beat to make immigration arrests."
"This is another example of how the Bush administration is out of touch with the reality of ordinary people's lives," said Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE, one of the plaintiff organizations in the lawsuit. "Hard-working but vulnerable immigrant workers and their families are intimidated by any contact with local law enforcement authorities."
Congress has strictly limited the power of local and state police to make immigration arrests by requiring them to, among other things, receive formal training in federal immigration law before undertaking general immigration enforcement activities. In a departure from longstanding federal policy, the Department of Justice is seeking to engage state and local police in making immigration arrests, without regard to the training and other requirements imposed by Congress. More than 60 local police and sheriff departments around the country, numerous law enforcement organizations, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities have publicly stated their opposition to state and local police engaging in the routine enforcement of immigration law. Before September 11, the FBI did not enter civil information such as immigration data into the NCIC, except where specifically authorized by Congress. Since then, however, senior Administration officials have announced that information regarding more than 400,000 persons with outstanding civil orders of deportation and an undisclosed number of persons whom the government believes are not in compliance with new "special registration" requirements directed chiefly at Arab or Muslim immigrants will be entered into the NCIC to prompt state and local police to make immigration arrests.
State and local police routinely access the NCIC upon stopping or arresting individuals they encounter in the course of ordinary police work. A number of individuals have already been illegally arrested by local police on the basis of unauthorized information entered into the NCIC database.
"Numerous reports by the Inspector General of DOJ have confirmed the infamous unreliability of INS records," said former Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, another plaintiff in the suit. "Now that information is being disseminated to police all over the country, and will be used to detain immigrants, many of whom may have a legal right to be in this country."
Plaintiffs in the Lawsuit:
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
1111 19th St. NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20036
Contacts: Michele Waslin and Lisa Navarette
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
4201 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, DC 20008
Contact: Hussein Ibish
Latin American Workers Project (LAWP)
840 Broadway, 3rd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Contact: Oscar Paredes
New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)
275 Seventh Avenue, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 627-2227 x 226
Contact: Dan Smulian
275 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001-6708
Contact: David Prouty
Lawyers Representing the Plaintiffs:
Washington Square Legal Services, Inc.
161 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor
New York, NY 10013
Contact: Michael Wishnie
The Bronx Defenders
860 Courtlandt Avenue
Bronx, New York 10451
Contact: Peter Markowitz
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation,
Immigrants' Rights Project
125 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004
Contact: Emily Whitfield