Blackie's House of Beef yesterday filed a $500,000 lawsuit against four U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials, charging that the warrant they used to conduct a search for illegal aliens at the Washington restaurant last month was illegal and unconstitutional.
The case could have far-reaching consequences for the Immigration Service, for businesses that employ illegal aliens and for the immigrants themselves.
The suits, filed in District Court here, arises from a Nov. 17 raid on the restaurant at 22nd and M streets NW that resulted in the arrest of 14 illegal immigrants working there. Several were chased down nearby streets during the operation and a few were found hiding in a utility closet.
INS officials later said that a principal reason Blackie's was raided was because they believed the restaurant's owner would test the validity of their warrant, a civil type never used before by the INS.
This is the second time this year that Blackie's owner, Ulysses Auger, has sued the immigration service to contest its right to use general search warrants for the purpose of finding and arresting illegal foreign workers.
Auger won the first case when U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer ruled that the criminal search warrant used in a March raid on the restaurant was invalid because it applied only to searches for property, not people.
Many INS investigators said at the time that the decision threatened to make apprehensions of illegal aliens a far more difficult undertaking.
Though the services uses relatively few search warrants-about 60 in fiscal year 1978-the threat of a warrant often is used to obtain an employer's cooperation.
"To me, Blackie's is more than search warrants. To me (it) is an indicator of the trend of judicial decisions that all point toward making it harder (to arrest illegal aliens) without meeting very rigid criteria," INS Commissioner Leonel J. Castllo said soon after Oberdorfer's Oct. 13 ruling.
Subsequently, according to INS sources, the agency's officials conferred with Justice Department lawyers in an attempt to find a means of overcoming the court's decision. When the restaurant was raided again last month, two INS attorneys accompanied the investigators on the operation in anticipation of a court challenge to the new type of warrant used.
Auger's attorney, Jack Wasserman, contended yesterday that although this warrant was a civil and not a criminal one and listed a number of criteria for believing illegal aliens were on the premises, it still contravened Oberdorfer's ruling and constitutional guarantees against the use of general warrants.
Wasserman also attacked as essentially discriminatory some of the reasons given by INS investigators for believing that illegal aliens were employed at Blackie's when they applied for the warrant. These included the observations that several people there spoke Spanish, appeared to be of Hispanic descent, had dark hair and complexions, "foreign-style haircuts" and wore "ill-fitting and inexpensive clothing and foreign-style, inexpensive shoes."
The defendants listed in the suit are Castillo, acting regional INS commissioner E.J. Wildblood, INS district director Joseph A. Mongiello and investigator Russell G. Parry Jr.
INS officials declined comment on the case yesterday.