Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where are our rights against search and seizure? (Davis Enterprise)

via Twitterer @Cory_Golden
[Send your tips to @ICE_Raid_Report]

Where are our rights against search and seizure?
Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Posted by Special to The Enterprise

Tuesday, April 26, 6 a.m. Everyone is asleep.

Those in the main part of the house are jolted awake by repeated shouting, loud banging and bell-ringing at the front door. “POLICE!” “WARRANT!”

Two small Vietnamese women in the front bedroom, barely a month in the country, frightened, confused, fearing for their lives, are thinking “robber” or “terrorist.” A young South American man, not understanding the words, thinking “emergency,” gets up and runs to open the front door.

“When I opened it, a policeman pushed me against the wall while he was handling a gun, he pointed (at) me and made me turn around and put my hands in my back,” the young man says.

Several officers, guns drawn, rush in. Other residents are collected and also handcuffed.

One resident attempts to explain that the two women in the front bedroom are not fluent in English. Ignoring what was said, or perhaps just not listening, several men force the locked door open.

“They pointed guns at us. Then they ordered us to put our hands up and checked us,” says one. “I was in fear of my life. I felt very cold and tired because I was two months pregnant.

“After that, both of us were handcuffed. They ordered me to sit on the floor. We were taken into the living room. At that moment I knew that those men around us were police. There were about eight or nine policemen.”

Though the officers are told he also was not fluent in English, a Vietnamese man in the back part of the house is punched several times on the back of the head, after he is face down on the floor, hands behind him. The entire house is ransacked.

Three days later, the pregnant woman suffers a miscarriage.

Is this a typical SWAT raid for drugs, undocumented immigrants or both, taking place in a “crime-ridden,” poverty-stricken area? No!

The incident described above occurred in a quiet, family-oriented neighborhood right here in Davis. Most residents of the house are either visiting international scholars or students, or American citizens who are students. No drug dealers. No “illegal immigrants.”

No one offering the slightest resistance, unless cowering in fear or closing a door for protection from an as-yet-unidentified police officer who is presumed to be a robber constitutes “resistance.” No one has been arrested or charged with any crime.

The raid was by seven to 12 federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one of several agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. The warrant, shown to only one of the residents after most of the search had been conducted, was not for drugs or “illegals,” or any persons, but for items and records that “might” contain reference to a specific website, images of child pornography, or evidence of distribution or transmission of such images across international borders, which explains why ICE is involved.

Signed the previous morning, the agents had two weeks to execute the warrant based on what I was led to believe involved an alleged transmission and/or website visit that occurred more than a year ago.

Only one of the current residents had lived there longer than seven months. All of that person’s computer-related devices along with other items were confiscated.

Incidentally, the first time that person saw the warrant was when they were handed it with an attached list of items confiscated (unverified by the owner) when the search was completed.

During the search, agents thought it “necessary” to damage another door with a battering ram, and demolish a solid core door, locked on the side they were on. No reference to this damage has been made to the me, owner of the house, either verbally or written, even though two agents spoke with me, outside the house, at the scene.

As the owner of the house, I have a list of questions, as do the residents.

In a situation where the alleged “inciting incident” for the warrant occurred more than a year ago, why wasn’t time taken to gather more information about who might be currently living in the house? I assume ICE has access to top-notch intelligence gathering.

As owner of the house, and living next door, I could have provided information about who was currently living there, for how long, and could have facilitated entry into the house.

Do the facts justify forced entry at gunpoint and the detainment by handcuffing of terrified, non-resisting, innocent-until-proven-guilty people? Do the facts justify the risk of people being shot and possibly killed?

Who pays for psychological counseling for severely traumatized people? Who pays for the damage to the house? Are these injuries and damage simply considered “collateral damage”?

Prior to the search, must the search warrant be shown to each person whose property is to be searched? Is it necessary to ascertain whether those affected by the search understand what is occurring?

If one’s property is seized, is one permitted to verify the list as accurate? If not, is accuracy verified by another agent? Are agents required to sign for confiscated property?

Due to the fact that the warrant does not mention people, does the forced detainment and/or the manner in which the search was conducted constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment which says in part, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated …”?

This callous use of abusive force by the ICE agents must be questioned and reviewed to help prevent needless violence and injuries to innocent persons in the future. Our democracy requires no less.

— Linda Clark is a Davis resident. She has filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, and sent copies to a variety of agencies and government officials. The chancellor’s office at UC Davis has been in contact with the San Francisco ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the Vietnamese Consulate in San Francisco, Clark says.

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