Students from a Yale Law School human rights clinic filed suit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accusing it of discrimination against Latino immigrants in Danbury, CT.
The case stems from the trial of 11 immigrants living in Danbury, most of them represented by the law students, who were jailed after an undercover officer posing as a building contractor baited them with the promise of day labor. The government has accused them of living in the country illegally. The suit represents the second time in the past month that the Law School has taken legal action against Homeland Security over immigration policy.
Justin Cox LAW ’08 said the intention of the lawsuit is to force Homeland Security to turn over records pertaining to the Sept. 19 incident. But while the documents will specifically be used to defend the men in their deportation cases, he said, the lawsuit could also lead to legal action against the city of Danbury or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Homeland Security Department.
“There are suggestions that this sting operation violated their constitutional rights,” Cox said. “If it turns out either Danbury or ICE’s actions were motivated by … anti-Latino or immigration animosities, they would be vulnerable for damages.”
Cox said the men were targeted because they are Latino, which would constitute a form of racial profiling — a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said the case was “absolutely absurd” and that the city did not violate anyone’s constitutional rights.
“We apply those laws evenly across the board to all residents,” he said.
In a separate interview on NBC Thursday, Boughton said, “This is really just a bunch of Yale law students who don’t have much to do with their time.”
Marc Raimondi, a representative for ICE, said his organization targets specific violators based on prior intelligence.
“Our enforcement actions are not random,” he said in a statement. “We conduct targeted enforcements.”
In November, the Yale Law School human rights clinic sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court to release records on Operation Front Line, a secret national security program targeting illegal immigrants.
Simon Moshenberg LAW ’08 said ideally the students would receive all the records pertaining to the sting operation, which would clarify who was behind the incident and the sequence of events. In particular, he said he hopes the records will reveal the motivations for the operation.
“The government is trying to deport [our clients],” Moshenberg said. “This information will be invaluable in helping that case.”
The students have also filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records from the city of Danbury, and said they will sue the Danbury Mayor’s Office if it fails to release documents by the upcoming deadline this month.