ELEVEN DAY laborers were arrested and detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in a disgraceful sting operation in Danbury, Conn.
The incident began at 7 a.m. on September 19 when the workers were gathering in Kennedy Park to wait for employers to come with work for that day. An unmarked silver van--with construction helmets and day-glow safety vests visible inside--made three stops, picking up 11 laborers in all.
The van was being used by ICE agents--who, under the pretence of being an employer looking for workers, instead arrested and detained the laborers.
The van took the 11 directly to the Danbury Police Department parking lot, where they were transferred to another vehicle bound for Hartford. They were held in Hartford long enough for processing, and were then transferred to a detention facility in Suffolk County, Mass.
In the hours and days that followed, family members grew alarmed at the disappearance of the 11 laborers. But many were afraid to approach the police to ask if their loved ones were on the list of those arrested. "He just didn’t come home," said the nephew of one of the missing workers.
One year ago, anti-racist activists from several groups held a demonstration in the park where the detainees were picked up. The demonstration was a protest against the racist Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control (CCIR), which occupied the park early in the morning, frightening away many workers, documented and undocumented alike, who wait there for work.
The antiracist demonstrators set up across from the CCIR, chanting, "We don't want your racist fear, immigrants are welcome here!" and the racists were forced to abandon their protest early.
A few months before, some 1,300 people held a silent march through Danbury to protest Mayor D. Mark Boughton's plan to deputize local police officers to enforce immigration laws. After the march, Boughton backed down from sanctioning mass deportation sweeps.
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On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.
The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.
Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.
Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.