racial profiling by U.S.
Border Patrol, et al.
Dec. 10, 2009: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.
(ABLE) and the law firm of
Murray and Murray, Co. L.P.A have filed a
class action complaint in U.S. District
Court, Northern District (Western Division, Toledo)
against the U.S. Border Patrol
and several local law enforcement
agencies in northwest Ohio.
The suit alleges that the U.S. Border
Patrol and agencies restrain and interrogate Latinos
about their immigration status based solely on their “Latino”
appearance and that this profiling violates the 4th Amendment’s
prohibition against unreasonable
searches and seizures and the 5th Amendment’s guarantee
of due process and equal protection of the law.
ABLE and the law firm of Murray and Murray of
Sandusky, Ohio, are representing
both individual plaintiffs and organizational plaintiffs
Farm Labor Organizing Committee,
AFL-CIO (FLOC) and the Immigrant Worker Project (IWP) and
their members who have been stopped and detained by law
enforcement without probable cause.
“We have had an overwhelming number of complaints from Hispanic
people from northwest Ohio who have been stopped, restrained,
interrogated, and sometimes arrested for no apparent reason.
The incidents have resulted in no criminal arrests or traffic
citations but have included requests for proof of immigration
documentation,” says ABLE attorney Mark Heller.
The complaint, filed in the U.S.
District Court for the Northern
District of Ohio, asks that the case proceed as a class
action and that all activities related to racial profiling be
“Targeting of Hispanics has happened to our clients while
pumping gas, walking down the street, in retail establishments,
and while picking up children from school. In one incident, a
client was pulled over because the light over his license plate
was dim,” says Heller. “When he presented his valid Ohio
Driver’s License, the officer demanded proof of immigration
status from him and his five passengers, all of whom were lawful
In particular, the lawsuit alleges that the illegal and
unconstitutional actions of the U.S.
Border Patrol agents stationed at or working out of the
Sandusky Station, Detroit Sector, of the U.S. Border Patrol, are
engaged in a pattern or practice of restraining, interrogating,
and arresting persons regarding their immigration status based
on their “Latino” appearance.
In addition, local law enforcement
authorities in Ohio,
including Attica, Norwalk, and Plymouth
police departments, are alleged to have profiled and
stopped, restrained, and interrogated individual Plaintiffs and
class members regarding their immigration status.
“We are asking the U.S. District Court to issue a judgment
declaring that the Defendants’ policies, practices, and acts
have violated and continue to violate the constitutional rights
of members of our community,” adds Heller.
“Any time law enforcement officials
create an environment of fear, it becomes a community issue.
Children are pulled from schools, people stop going to work, and
crimes against Latinos go unresolved because people are afraid
of law enforcement,” says Baldemar
Velásquez, president of FLOC.
“The practice of profiling is never successful when based on
appearance,” Velásquez adds. “If the objective of the profiling
is to enforce immigration laws,
violating the rights of documented or undocumented people sweeps
everyone into the mix, resulting in even more confusion and
fear, causing everyone to shut down and hide, creating havoc
with workers and employers.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the U.S. Border Patrol station in
Sandusky has conducted seminars, meetings, and other methods of
communication with local law enforcement in northwest Ohio,
urging them to restrain and interrogate persons of “Latino”
appearance regarding their immigration status.
“In some cases, the U.S. Border Patrol has offered to come and
restrain and interrogate persons that the local law enforcement
agencies have already seized, violating the 14th Amendment’s
guarantee for due process and equal protection of the law,”
Heller says. “There really is no legitimate defense to what
they are doing,” he adds.
Editor’s Note: The case is captioned Roberto Muñiz, et al.
vs. Randy L. Gallegos, et al., and assigned to Judge Jack
Zouhary. A copy of the complaint can be found at laprensa1.com
to view the complaint (pdf)