February 16, 2009
By: Thomas MacMillan
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will not testify in person after all to defend the constitutionality of their actions in the Fair Haven raids of June 2007.
The ICE attorneys have decided to make their case by written affidavit only, which means there will be no opportunity for in-person cross-examination by attorneys representing the immigrants arrested during the raids.
It is the latest development in the ongoing immigration court case dealing with 17 of the immigrants who were arrested in the 2007 sweep. The immigrants, represented by attorneys from Yale Law School, contend that they were arrested illegally and that their constitutional rights were violated when ICE agents entered their homes without permission and arrested them without due process. Attorneys for ICE deny the claim.
For previous coverage of the hearings, see here, here, here and here.
Judge Michael Straus ruled in January that in the case of six of the 17 immigrants, the burden of proof had shifted to the government. The ICE agents were expected to take the stand to defend their actions.
“It’s anyone’s right to refuse to take the stand,” said Jane Lewis, one of the Yale lawyers working on the case. Lewis said on Friday that she was “just baffled” why they decided not to testify in person.
She called the decision an “unfortunate choice.”
“We were really hoping the court would hear the agents themselves,” Lewis said.
The Yale lawyers will respond to the affidavits with a brief to Judge Straus. Lewis couldn’t predict when Straus would be making a decision.
In an email message, ICE Communications Director Mike Gilhooly said that the written affidavits were “reasonable responses in immigration court hearings.”
Gilhooly said that the government’s position was justified by a 1984 decision stating “that litigating the facts surrounding every immigration arrest would impose an intolerable administrative burden on the immigration enforcement system.”