The federal government on Monday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed in federal court by a Yale Law School clinic on behalf of 10 New Haven residents who claim their constitutional rights were violated by a 2007 immigration raid.
The government argues that the lawsuit is not legally valid because it had been brought on behalf of private citizens and not local government officials. Other courts have concluded that only states themselves, not private parties, can claim the federal government has encroached on state sovereignty.
The government’s response comes more than four months after the clinic filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the raids on June 6, 2007, during which agents raided eight apartments and homes in New Haven’s Fair Haven neighborhood, detaining 29 city residents, five of whom were the intended targets of the raids.
Since 2007, a team of lawyers and students led by Law School professor Michael Wishnie ’87 LAW ’93 has been working to challenge the arrests in immigration court. The four-month-old suit in federal court alleges that ICE agents illegally entered local residences without search warrants and arrested people solely on the basis of race and ethnicity.
It also argues that the raids violated the Tenth Amendment, which protects against federal intrusion into state affairs. The plaintiffs claim the raid came in retaliation to the Elm City ID card, a form identification issued to all residents regardless of immigration status, which the Board of Alderman had approved two days earlier.
But the government’s 10-page motion, written by Department of Justice lawyers in Washington, mentions the plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims only briefly, stating that immigration agents are allowed to search residences for illegal immigrants without search warrants.
The motion instead focuses on the Tenth Amendment claim because it is the “most pertinent” of the alleged violations. The motion asserts that New Haven residents cannot bring a Tenth Amendment claim because they are private citizens, not government officials, and so cannot sue on behalf of a local government. As a result, the motion states, regardless of whether the plaintiffs’ Tenth Amendment claim has merit, they cannot legally bring it.
The plaintiffs have claimed that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. repeatedly expressed strong sentiment against the raids, but neither he nor any city official is officially party of the lawsuit.
“No Plaintiff in this action represents the state,” the filing says.
The motion also says that the plaintiffs have not proven why a federal court should hear the case.
ICE spokesman Harold Ort declined to comment on the case, and representatives from the Yale Law School group representing the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.
One of the 29 people arrested during the June 2007 raids, one was deported and five left the country voluntarily.