A New Jersey law school and a Portuguese-language newspaper filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security in federal court Monday to get information about raids on immigrant homes in the Garden State.
The lawsuit is in response to an essentially ignored records request Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice and the Brazilian Voice submitted to the department in December, asking for records relating to the reports and policies of more than 40 alleged raids the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents performed in the area without search warrants.
The only response the organizations have received from the department has been a letter denying their request to expedite the process, which could mean the difference of months versus weeks, according to Scott Thompson, a lawyer at Lowenstein Sandler who is representing the center.
The raids in question are part of a government-mandated initiative whereby agents must meet a quota of tracking down and arresting immigrants with outstanding deportation orders.
The law school has accused the agents of arresting anyone who can’t provide immediate legal proof of his or her residence status.
“There’s clearly a wealth of information in the government’s possession relating to the origination of the idea and execution of these policies,” Thompson said. “We think the public has a right to know.”
Thompson said the organizations are requesting information in relation to more than a dozen New Jersey towns, where, according to the law school, raids have been on the rise.
He said he doesn’t know whether the government is acting illegally, but said the sheer lack of any formal documentation raises a concern.
“There’s no doubt the government does not want to disclose detailed information concerning these policies and procedures,” Thompson said. “But, there’s a reason why there’s a FOIA, and it’s good for the health of our democracy that there are people like Seton Hall and the Brazilian Voice willing to fight the government to get access to this information.”