Inland Empire immigrant rights group part of lawsuit that bars ICE agents from using ‘knock-and-talk’ arrest tactic

A US court judge has ruled immigration enforcement officers must stop using a door-knocking tactic to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants.

Inland Empire immigrant rights group part of lawsuit that bars ICE agents from using ‘knock-and-talk’ arrest tactic
Photo Credit: Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers must stop using the "knock-and-talk" tactic to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants because a federal judge ruled it's unconstitutional. 

U.S. Judge Otis D. Wright II sided in favor of plaintiffs Osny Sorto-Vasquez Kidd, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) in federal court last Wednesday. The lawsuit against ICE was filed in April 2020 by the ACLU of Southern California, the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

In his ruling, Wright ruled that the practice violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

By using the so-called “knock and talk” tactic, Wright argues ICE agents unlawfully entered constitutionally protected areas, such as covered porches, private patios or backyards with only administrative immigration warrants – not warrants signed by a judge.

The plaintiffs claim ICE officers often deceive residents about their identity and intentions.

"Everyone should feel safe in their own home, regardless of immigration status," said ACLU SoCal attorney Stephanie Padilla in a statement. "This order should significantly curtail ICE’s unconstitutional home arrest practices."

Lizbeth Castillejos-Abeln of ICIJ, one of the plaintiffs in the case, shares that ICE’s tactics harm immigrants. 

“[Knock and talk] just disrupts entire families and neighborhoods,” says Castillejos-Abeln. “And that's why it was important for us to bring this forth."

The agency’s arrest records from 2018 show that San Bernardino County had the highest number of arrests in the nation.

Abeln says that ICIJ and partnering organizations will continue to hold Know Your Rights workshops in the community to support undocumented immigrants. 

The ruling highlighted four instances between February 2017 and April 2020, where ICE unlawfully entered private areas to arrest residents. Judge Wright’s order applies to ICE's Los Angeles Field Office, which covers the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.

An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling.