Advocates in Virginia filed a lawsuit Wednesday against four federal immigration agents over a practice known as “collateral arrests” that have helped boost the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended under President Trump’s administration.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, claims that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated the constitutional rights of two men who are accused of being in the country illegally, but have been otherwise law-abiding, by detaining them without reasonable suspicion.
The ICE agents encountered Mynor Abdiel Tun-Cus and Jose Pajarito Saput in the parking lot of the Fairmont Gardens apartments as they were on their way to work and asked about another man who hadn't lived at the complex for about five years, according to the lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center in Northern Virginia, which seeks unspecified damages.
Unable to find their intended target, the ICE agents then took Tun-Cus and Saput into custody after determining they are undocumented immigrants, the lawsuit says. Tun-Cus and Saput have since been released but are awaiting federal deportation proceedings.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, director of the Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, argued that such “collateral arrests” violate constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure that guarantee due process.
Under the Trump administration, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441 during the first four months of the year, federal data in April showed.
In the Fairmont Gardens case, the ICE agents appeared indifferent to whether they found their intended target or not, Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
“What they really wanted was to find some warm bodies, which is what they did,” he said.
An ICE spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing agency policy.
But in a statement, the agency said ICE agents may arrest anyone they find who is in the country illegally “as part of routine targeted enforcement operations.”
“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy,” the statement said. “ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”