LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A prominent civil rights group has taken legal action against federal immigration authorities, in the case of what they say was an unlawful, warrantless arrest at an auto repair shop in South Los Angeles that ultimately led to a deportation order.
The Southern California office of the American Civil Liberties Union, working with the Law Offices of Stacey Tolchin, announced Thursday they had filed a motion to stop the deportation of auto mechanic Juan Hernandez, whom they say was unlawfully arrested by officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the filing, on Sept. 25, six ICE agents entered View Park Automotive in South L.A., where Hernandez worked, with guns drawn and without identifying themselves.
Security video from inside and outside the shop shows, as the ACLU motion claims, officers with vests labeled “police” ordering Hernandez, three other mechanics, a customer and a vendor who had just dropped off parts “to freeze and put their hands up.”
“Without informing any of the men who they were or why they were arresting them, the agents proceeded to handcuff all of the employees,” the motion reads. “The only thing the officers knew about Mr. Hernandez when they decided to detain him was his place of business and his Latino appearance.”
The ACLU claims that “Juan Hernandez, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and young daughter, had worked at the shop for seven years as a mechanic and was one of those detained without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion.”
Attorneys for Hernandez claim neither he nor his fellow mechanics knew the officers were immigration agents until they were taken to an immigration processing center in Downtown L.A. Hernandez was later taken to the immigration detention facility in Adelanto. He was released on $5,000 bond on Oct. 31.
“ICE’s arrest-first-ask-questions-later approach to enforcement is not only unlawful, it has real, painful consequences for communities and families like Mr. Hernandez’s,” ACLU attorney Eva Bitran said.
ICE spokeswoman Lori K. Haley stated that, though the agency cannot comment on a pending investigation, “lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations,” City News Service reported.