Monday, March 10, 2008

Immigration Attorney Harassed by ICE at Home

A private attorney friend, Kevin Crabtree, had an encounter with ICE agents at his private residence that has led to his filing a complaint with DHS. Fortunately, Kevin knows his rights, of course. But just think of the countless others who are daily intimidated by ICE agents who are unaware of their rights or intimidated into waiving their rights. Kevin has agreed to allow us to post his letter of complaint.

LAW OFFICE OF ROBERT L. LEWIS

409   13TH STREET, 16TH FLOOR, OAKLAND, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 834-1288   Fax: (510) 834-0431

February 5, 2008
Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane, SW
Building 410
Mail Stop #0800
Washington, DC  20528
Dear Officer:

Please accept this letter as a complaint against Officers “John Doe” and Caroline Hum of USICE-San Francisco, who came to my private residence on the morning of February 4, 2008 at 8:15 a.m.  My home address is --------------------, Apt 2, San Francisco, California.

I am a citizen of the United States and an attorney at law.  I practice immigration law exclusively, with a particular focus on removal defense.  I consequently have frequent interactions with employees of USICE and USCIS in San Francisco.

So, it was an interesting coincidence that two ICE officers rang my doorbell this morning–having bypassed the street security gate and buzzer that most people understand to be an indication that the 12-unit apartment building is not open to the general public.  At 8:15 a.m., as I happened to be discussing case strategy on the phone with co-counsel regarding a bond hearing the same day, my apartment doorbell rang.

I opened the door and was greeted by Officer Hum.  She identified herself as an ICE officer.  She was accompanied by a male officer, who did not identify himself.  Officer Hum stated that she was looking for an individual, but she had difficulty articulating the individual’s name.

I inquired whether the officers possessed a judicial warrant to enter the premises.  The officers did not respond.  I then stated to the officers that I declined to answer any questions, and I stated to them that they needed to leave.  Officer Hum then stated “that’s fine, we’re just going to wait here until you come out.”

After I closed the door, the unidentified male officer stated, “I’m going to kick your door down.”  He also threatened me with prosecution for alien harboring.

I continued to speak to the officers through my closed door.  I again inquired whether the officers had a judicial warrant to enter my premises, as the male officer had stated he would forcibly enter my residence.  They did not respond.  I stated to the officers that they were not entitled to forcibly enter my home without a judicial warrant.

I next instructed the officers to leave the common space of my apartment building, unless they had other business at the building.  The officers refused to promptly leave.  I informed them that they must leave private property when requested if they did not possess a judicial warrant.  I stated that I would call the San Francisco Police Department. 

The male officer inquired whether I was the manager of the apartment building.  I informed him that I was not the manager, but that I had a right to possession of the common area, and that I chose to exclude the officers from the common areas of the building.  I further stated to the officers that they had no claim to possession of the property.  The male officer stated that “your claim is not valid.”  He stated that he would contact the apartment building manager, which I invited him to do.  There is no on-site building manager.  Control of the premises is exercised by the residents.

The officers then continued to loiter directly in front of my apartment door for approximately 15 minutes.  This made it difficult to continue my phone conversation with co-counsel regarding the bond hearing.  Due to the lay-out of my apartment, it is easy to overhear conversations through my front door.  The doors are also made of shaded glass.  Out of courtesy, the residents do not loiter in front of each others doors because of the invasion of privacy this causes.

Towards the end of the exchange, I asked the officers why they were at my residence, to which they did not respond.  At this point, I disclosed to the officers that I am an immigration defense attorney and that I would therefore decline to answer any questions related to their enforcement efforts.  Officer Hum then gave me her contact information and I believe the officers left, although they may have been lurking about the building.

As an American citizen, I feel that it is very important that the representatives of my own government respect the law rather than break it.  The conduct of the unidentified officer in threatening to kick down my door, though he obviously lacked the legal authority to do so, is indefensible.  Such behavior is unbecoming a federal law enforcement agent.  The officer’s threat placed me in fear of my physical safety.

But for my training as a lawyer, I have little doubt that my rights would have been completely brushed aside.  By making criminal threats against my home and physical safety, threatening prosecution without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, and refusing to respect my property rights, the officers clearly sought to dissuade the exercise of my constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

I also object to the officers trespassing on private property.  Federal officers may violate state law only where federal law preempts that law.  No federal law authorizes officers to enter and remain in the common access areas of an apartment building pursuant to an investigation without warrant, after having been requested to leave by the person in possession thereof.  Because no federal law authorizes the officers’ conduct, they are subject to state laws regulating that conduct.

California Penal Code Section 602(o) defines as trespass the “[r]efusing or failing to leave land, real property, or structures belonging to or lawfully occupied by another and not open to the general public, upon being requested to leave by ... the owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession ... however, this subdivision shall not apply to persons on the premises who are engaging in activities protected by the California or United States Constitution, or to persons who are on the premises at the request of a resident or management and who are not loitering or otherwise suspected of violating or actually violating any law or ordinance.”

Cal. P.C. § 602(o).

Whether as the person in possession of the common area, or the agent of the owner for the purpose of excluding unauthorized persons from the premises, I was authorized to exclude the officers from the building.

ICE officers undergo extensive training on immigration and constitutional law.  I have no doubt that the conduct of the above officers was knowing and willful.  This incident also appears to be just one example of a pattern of constitutional violations in recent times by ICE officers, suggesting the agency has adopted a policy of aggressive violations of constitutional rights in its enforcement efforts.

I request acknowledgment of this complaint, and disclosure of the identity of the male officer (or at a minimum confirmation that you have identified him and are able to investigate this complaint).  I appreciate your attention to this matter.  If I can provide any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me in writing at the address above.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Crabtree
Attorney at Law

bh

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2008/03/immigration-att.html

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Comments

I like to see this because it gives the rest of us (the not-lawyerly) insight into how to handle situations like this. I know so many people, from average low-income citizens to upper-middle class professionals that have been unjustifiably harassed and threatened by the authorities. Keep us posted as to how this unfolds.

Posted by: sufimarie | Mar 10, 2008 10:40:34 PM

It has been suggested that attorney Crabtee gave his own address as the alien's address in this case or that the alien was in fact residing at the attorney's home address.

Does anyone know whether these allegations are true?

Posted by: Kevin Bove | Mar 11, 2008 8:55:36 AM

"It has been suggested that attorney Crabtree gave his own address as the alien's address in this case or that the alien was in fact residing at the attorney's home address.

Does anyone know whether these allegations are true?"

Even if they were true, why would it matter if he did, from a constitutional standpoint? My understanding of the 4th amendment is that it covers all people in this country, regardless of immigration status, and I am pretty sure a majority of the Supreme Court would agree with me with some qualifications.

On behalf of those of us out here in the trenches, I can assure you that Attorney Crabtree's experience with the ICE officers at his residence was very mild compared to what my clients typically experience.

Cheers.

Chris

Posted by: Chris Vreeland | Mar 12, 2008 1:22:52 PM

On behalf of those of us out here in the trenches, I can assure you that Attorney Crabtree's experience with the ICE officers at his residence was very mild compared to what my clients typically experience.

And your clients, like most criminals are always innocent and tell the truth. Pardon me if I suspect their credulity.

"Even if they were true, why would it matter if he did, from a constitutional standpoint?"

Yes, maybe not constitutionally, sir, but to an ethical person who believes that all the truth should come out, not just that which is convenient to the "offended", it does matter. If, by this lawyer providing ICE with his address, ICE was led to believe that this lawyer was hiding his client in his apartment, it would go a long way in explaining why the officers looked at him with suspicion and that he isn't as innocent as he presents himself to be in his letter. By leaving out the fact that this lawyer gave his address as that of his client, it also calls into question whether everything he said in the letter is the entire truth? How do we know that this lawyer didn't falsely give his address as that of his client in order to prevent his client from being arrested if the client defaulted on his court appointment? I'm not asserting these as facts, but as possibilities to be considered.

You're like many lawyers, Mr. Vreeland, all too willing to hang your hat on what's in the interests of his client without regard to ethical behavior.

Posted by: Horace | Mar 12, 2008 4:53:16 PM

What is an ICE? What are the things that Kevin Crabtree do about this matter? How come that he was harassed in his own place?
________________

cutie_tech123
New York Immigration Lawyer Marina Shepelsky, located in Brooklyn, assists clients from the New York metro area and across the United States in all immigration and naturalization matters
http://www.e-us-visa.com

Posted by: cathy alaiza | Apr 29, 2008 1:25:19 AM

(d) A person is entitled to have any information that identifies the person, including the person's name, address, date of birth, driver's license number, and social security number, contained in records and files relating to the arrest of another person expunged if:

Posted by: construction injury lawyer michigan | May 25, 2008 1:05:23 AM

guys, this morning I had few ICE Officers ringing my bell. My little kid woke me up and saying the door bell is ringing. I wore my pants and opened the door. The officer jumped in and asked me they were looking for a guy in the picture that I never ever saw such person in the city I live and not in my house. How can that happen? Why were they really at my house? My kids are really scared now.

Posted by: Frank | Oct 6, 2008 9:43:16 AM

guys, this morning I had few ICE Officers ringing my bell. My little kid woke me up and saying the door bell is ringing. I wore my pants and opened the door. The officer jumped in and asked me they were looking for a guy in the picture that I never ever saw such person in the city I live and not in my house. How can that happen? Why were they really at my house? My kids are really scared now.

Posted by: Frank | Oct 6, 2008 9:44:16 AM

guys, this morning I had few ICE Officers ringing my bell. My little kid woke me up and saying the door bell is ringing. I wore my pants and opened the door. The officer jumped in and asked me they were looking for a guy in the picture that I never ever saw such person in the city I live and not in my house. How can that happen? Why were they really at my house? My kids are really scared now.

Posted by: Frank | Oct 6, 2008 9:44:35 AM

guys, this morning I had few ICE Officers ringing my bell. My little kid woke me up and saying the door bell is ringing. I wore my pants and opened the door. The officer jumped in and asked me they were looking for a guy in the picture that I never ever saw such person in the city I live and not in my house. How can that happen? Why were they really at my house? My kids are really scared now.

Posted by: Frank | Oct 6, 2008 9:44:40 AM

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http://www.myworkvisa.com

Posted by: James | Nov 15, 2008 5:28:41 AM

Andy Semotiuk is an immigration lawyer offers various visa related work like work and travel, H1-B work visa and immigrant application online.

http://www.myworkvisa.com

Posted by: James | Nov 15, 2008 5:29:52 AM

ICE officers are out of control and their abhorent lack of ethics and violating the rights of permanent residents and attorneys representing them is an outrage for those of us who must adhere to an ethical code.

Posted by: attorney | Jun 2, 2009 5:15:18 PM

Stefano Riznyk is an immigration lawyer who deals with high-level waivers and issues for people with criminal and overstay issues. If you are reading this because you have been deported or need a waiver, maybe he can help you.

Posted by: James | Apr 5, 2010 10:34:42 AM

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