Trashing the Fourth Amendment

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

In both 2004 and 2009, a Latino lady named Ada Morales was imprisoned for a minor traffic violation. Why? Because Immigration and Customs Enforcement had put an immigration retainer on Morales in the attempt to deport her from the country. But here was one rub—she has been a U.S. citizen since 1995. Even when the State of Rhode Island had dismissed the “crime” against Morales, she was still held in prison for an additional 24 hours while U.S. immigration had searched her file for her immigration status. Three things are totally frightening in this whole episode. First, Ada Morales should NOT have been held twice in jail because of her immigration status. She should have been cleared in a matter of minutes. The records of her U.S. citizenship should have been available with the click of a mouse. Second, she should not have been held for hours or even a day. But the most unfortunate thing is that her Fourth Amendment rights should not have been violated the way they were.

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Morales should NOT have been held at all for a possible violation of immigration law, especially when U.S.immigration already has her file that she is a U.S. citizen and not have her detained for hours and even days. The real danger here is that U.S. immigration is using immigration retainers for a probable violation of immigration law even though it has been established that the suspect(s) in question have already been established as U.S. citizens. What is happening is that U.S. immigration is using immigration retainers in an arbitrary way that violates the Fourth Amendment and takes away a U.S. citizen’s protection from unreasonable search. For what Ada Morales has been put through, she has brought a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement in regards to immigration retainers being used so arbitrarily.

So far, federal courts have ruled in Morales’ favor—indeed U.S. immigration has violated her Fourth Amendment rights and that they have ruled that U.S. immigration must not use immigration retainers in such an arbitrary way. Yet U.S. immigration has tried to fight in the federal courts to retain immigration retainers. Why? How can U.S. immigration justify holding U.S. citizens in such an arbitrary manner? How can it justify trashing the Fourth Amendment? This would open the door to greater arbitrary arrests and threats against U.S. citizens whether they are foreign born or native born. There is a possibility that this could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Why should it go this far? Is it not obvious that this basic part of the U.S. Constitution is at stake? For all of us, I hope that U.S. immigration sees the light and ends its resistance to trying to trash the Fourth Amendment.

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