Using 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) to Challenge Dragnet Immigration Enforcement at State Courthouses
Shortly into the Trump presidency in 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began to have an active presence at the municipal court in Gardendale, Alabama. When individuals were brought in on minor offenses or violations, court personnel used racial markers such as language and surname to identify them as potential targets for removal. ICE would then close in to interrogate, detain, and deport them in short order. This collaboration between court personnel and ICE was corroborated by documents obtained in response to a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request. Specifically, an email chain in the documents confirmed that ICE had received support from municipal police, court administrators, and the judge.
Because of ICE’s aggressive enforcement tactics—resulting in an overinclusive dragnet that has targeted Latinxs generally and swept up citizens as well as noncitizens—this Note considers the viability of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Section 1985), a Reconstruction Era statute, to challenge ICE’s collusion with law enforcement at state courts. Specifically, this Note considers whether Adelante Alabama Worker Center (Adelante), a non-profit organization in Hoover, Alabama with predominantly Latinx membership, would have standing to sue. ICE’s enforcement in and around the Gardendale Municipal Court and apparent collusion with court personnel impacted Adelante members, some of whom have been questioned and detained inside the courthouse.
Notwithstanding the inherent limits of Section 1985, which is unavailing to noncitizen plaintiffs, this Note suggests that citizens suspected of being undocumented by virtue of their race or national origin and pulled into ICE’s “dragnet” may bring a claim under the state court prong of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2). By characterizing ICE’s collusion with local officials as not only intentionally discriminatory, but deliberately or recklessly indifferent, those citizen plaintiffs (or perhaps an organizational plaintiff representing them like Adelante) might be able to demonstrate harm to not only those physically restrained in the courthouse, but also to those deterred from attending, and secure injunctive relief against future enforcement actions.