More Warrantless Searches

by digby

Republicans really, really hate the fourth amendment. It seems to come up in every controversy these days:


...As the details of the Sept. 27 raid spread through this village, where about 17 percent of residents are Hispanic, some citizens began to protest the very premise of the operation — and the participation of local officers.

David Nyce, Greenport’s mayor, said, “The whole gang issue is something to keep the white majority scared about the Latino population, and to come in and bust as many people as they want.”

“I spoke to the police chief,” he added, “and I said, ‘This is going to set you back a lot.’ ”

Elsewhere in Suffolk County, many welcomed the sweep. The Suffolk County police, who patrol towns in the western part of the county, had only praise for the operation.

But the county executive and the county police commissioner in neighboring Nassau County disagreed. They noted that the vast majority of those arrested in their county were not gang associates, and that residents and police alike had been endangered by what they called the agents’ “cowboy mentality,” including armed raids on the wrong homes.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement dismiss such criticism. They say that the operation was properly conducted and methodically planned, based on intelligence provided by the local police departments themselves. “Collateral arrests” of illegal immigrants who are not gang suspects are always appropriate to the agency’s mission, they said.

“We’re not here stomping all over anybody’s rights,” said Peter J. Smith, the special agent in charge of the Long Island operation, which led to the roundup of 186 men. “We’ve got immigration powers.”

One of the things that clearly unsettled residents of Greenport was that the immigrants were arrested in their homes, without warrants, an immigration enforcement tactic that has been used more and more since 2005.

By law, immigration agents without judicial warrants may enter homes only with the consent of the residents. They may not use racial or ethnic profiling to single people out. But they have broad authority to detain anyone they encounter if they have grounds for suspicion that the person is not in the country legally. The legality of recent home raids has been challenged in federal court in New York and elsewhere.

Case law on the constitutional limits of immigration powers in home raids is still unsettled, said Prof. Daniel Kanstroom, a legal historian of deportation at Boston College. For decades, such raids were rare, in part because the idea of home as an inviolable space has been enshrined by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure, which applies to all people in the United States.

“We are now in the midst of a major resurgence” in home raids, Professor Kanstroom said

This was a raid to catch alleged gang members, but instead caught long term residents with no criminal history whatsoever. Look for more of this as the immigration debate ramps up. And keep your fingers crossed that the INS doesn't accidentally decide that illegal immigrants are living in your house because they don't need no stinking warrants.

On a slightly different tack, here's a good post by Meta Watershed on the great questions of immigration. I particularly like this bit of myth busting:

The Center for American Progress last June published a report on the Five Key Myths About Immigrants which have been given far too much play over recent years.

The 5 myths are as follows:

1. The US public health insurance programs are over burdened with documented and undocumented immigrants.
2. Immigrants consume large quantities of health care resources.
3. Immigrants come to the US to gain access to health care services.
4. Restricting immigrants access to the health care system will not affect American citizens.
5. Undocumented immigrants are free riders in the American health care system.

Some of the debunking offered by CAP:

"In Texas, for example, nearly seven percent of the state’s population was comprised of undocumented immigrants in 2005. The state’s health care costs for undocumented immigrants that same year were a mere $58 million. Yet state revenues collected from undocumented immigrants exceeded what the state spent on social services provided to these immigrants such as health care and education by $424.7 million.

"Immigrant contributions to social services are similar across the country. The National Research Council concluded that immigrants will pay on average $80,000 per capita more in taxes than they will use in government services over their lifetimes.

"Additionally, in March 2005, more than seven million undocumented immigrants were in the workforce yet received few public services for their labor and tax contributions. The Social Security Administration, for example, reaps an enormous benefit from the taxes paid by undocumented immigrants. It estimates that workers without valid social security numbers contribute $7 billion in Social Security tax revenues and roughly $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes annually, yet elderly immigrants rarely qualify for Medicare or long-term care services provided through Medicaid.

"In 2001, the Social Security Administration concluded that undocumented immigrants "account for a major portion of the billions of dollars paid into social security that don’t match SSA records," which payees, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, can never draw upon. As of July 2003, these payments totaled $421 billion."

Interesting, no? It makes you see why certain Republicans have decided that the failure of their Hispanic outreach might have a silver lining. Any chance to make the government less solvent is always welcome.

H/T to Jesse at Group News Blog