Los Angeles – An immigrant family in Southern California reported abuse, intimidation and physical violence at the hands of federal agents during a botched drug raid that has them close to being deported.
"This family suffered an unjust attack by the authorities and had nothing to do with the drugs they were looking for," immigration lawyer Jessica Domínguez, who represented the family at a press conference Monday in Los Angeles, told Efe.
Carmen Bonilla and another seven members of the family were home on July 19 when 40 armed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents burst in.
Despite grandma Bonilla's pleas and those of daughter-in-law Josefina and of Leticia H., another family member, the agents aimed guns at their heads, handcuffed them and ordered them onto the floor face down, Domínguez said.
The family had just moved in a few weeks before the raid and the agents found no drugs or other contraband, the attorney said.
During the operation the immigrants, including the grandmother and a 2-year-old, were kicked, beaten, and feared for their lives.
Terrorized by agents who demanded that they tell where the drugs were hidden, the adults tried to explain that they had recently moved to the residence but, according to the complaint, the agents paid no attention to their pleas.
"This case, besides being very painful for the family, shows that the instructions that (ICE) director (John) Morton gave agents to be careful in applying immigration laws is not being complied with," Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications manager of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told Efe.
"The director says one thing, but agents in the street do as they please, and obviously that includes violating human and civil rights," the activist said.
Asked on Monday at a press conference if the authorities presented a warrant to search their home, Bonilla - with tears in her eyes - said that "only at the end did they show it."
"It was inhumane and there's nothing to compare with the terror we suffered," she said.
Bonilla showed the bruises and scratches on her arms inflicted by the authorities, as well her sore wrists caused by the handcuffs.
Domínguez said that though the authorities "found no drugs nor evidence of any crime," Bonilla and her family are ordered to appear Tuesday "before ICE officials who want to deport them."
"This family reflects the fear, anxiety and distress that many in the community feel because of incidents and situations like this," the attorney said.
"This woman can hardly sleep after what happened. Now they all speak out and say the same thing, but I'm worried about those who have no one to help them," she said.