These isolating days, there’s hardly ever a knock on the door.
But visitors used to be common enough, and one day they will again be.
So if after that knock, you heard someone call out, “We’re police investigating a crime and just want to ask a few questions. Can we come in?,” you’d likely comply with the request, even if no warrant were produced.
Or how about: “We’re police and there is an issue with your car. Can you come outside?” Your likely reply as you stepped out the door: “Sure, officers, what’s up with my car?”
Or you might hear: “We’re probation officers looking for a person that lives at this house. Is he here? Can we speak with him?”
But what if the “police” or “probation” officers were not what they claimed to be, even though their uniforms have POLICE stitched on them, but rather ICE agents merely impersonating local police? Would such intentional obfuscation be right, or even constitutional?
No way, says the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, and that’s why this week it sued the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, joined by the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the powerful Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.
The real harm from the deception is not that it is merely a trick, the lawsuit claims. The tactic undermines public confidence in the real police, and that’s a danger to our entire society. It runs contrary to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of “unreasonable search and seizure” and need for “probable cause” for a government search.
We strongly support this effort to force ICE agents to stop using the impersonation tactic during home arrests, and so should all Southern Californians.
The suit was brought in the name of Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd of Hacienda Heights, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, whose home was raided by an ICE agent claiming to be a “detective” with local police.
“ICE impersonated police officers and lied their way into my family’s home,” Kidd said. She’s right, and ICE knows police departments abhor the tactic. The United States District Court should ban its use once and for all.