Puedo entrar a su casa?
Such a question, and in Spanish, may be what immigration agents would have to say to gain access to a personal residence next time they conduct a raid. The change comes as part of a new lawsuit settlement setting rules for when and how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can conduct raids.
Among the new rules, agents must seek permission to enter a home in the resident's language.
Agents were accused in a class-action lawsuit of forcing their way into eight homes of Latino families in Long Island, N.Y., without warrants or legal justification.
The raids occurred in 2006 and 2007.
The suit said in at least one case agents barged inside with guns drawn.
The immigration agency declined to comment.
A slew of lawsuits nationwide accuse immigration officials of violating constitutional rights when they conduct raids on private residences. Many of them have accused immigration agents of overly aggressive tactics. Agents, the lawsuit claimed, have identified themselves as just "police," prompting some people to open their doors, believing that the agents were local law enforcement.
But ICE agents are enforcing immigration laws, which are in the civil realm -- not criminal.
Other suits have said agents gained access into private residences saying they were looking for a person who did not live at the location, and then proceeded to ask people living there for proof of their legal status.
Juan Cartagena, president of Latino Justice PRLDEF, which represented the plaintiffs who sued ICE, lauded the agreement “forcing immigration agents to comply with our constitutional mandates.”
"In New York, [ICE] raided the homes of 22 Latino residents, some of them undocumented, some legal residents, some citizens, under force, false pretenses, and brazen unconstitutional conduct,” Cartagena said. “The raids were so suspect that Nassau County police refused to lend local police support because in one instance ICE was searching for a 22-year-old suspected undocumented person on the basis of a photo of a 7 year old child."
"The night time raids were done by force, leaving searing images of gestapo tactics among many of the younger Latino residents of the homes.”
Cartagena said the settlement calls for the federal government to pay $1 million in damages and costs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.