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Colorado high court rules tax office raid violated immigrants' rights

[JURIST] The Colorado Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that a raid of tax-preparer's office in order to build identify theft cases against suspected illegal immigrants was a violation of the immigrants' Fourth Amendment [text] rights. In 2008, investigators raided [Denver Post report] Amalia's Tax and Translation, which caters to Spanish speakers, and searched through 5,000 files for instances of immigrants using fake Social Security numbers. The raid resulted in 100 arrests, with charges filed against 70 immigrants. Although about 60 cases were dismissed after a judge excluded the evidence obtained in the raid, about 30 immigrants had already pleaded guilty [LAT report] to identity theft and been turned over for deportation. The court ruled 4-3 to affirm the lower court's decision, finding:

The warrant in this case permitted an unbridled search conducted, as the trial court described, "with the hope of uncovering evidence of criminal activity, which practice seems more in line with the writs of assistance in colonial America." We hold that the warrant here contravenes basic freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. We also hold that the good faith exception does not apply because this warrant was so lacking in indicia of probable cause that no reasonably well-trained officer could have relied upon it. Hence, we affirm the trial court's suppression order, and we return this case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck does not plan to appeal the decision.

Last month, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] announced that the Obama administration will push for immigration reform [JURIST report] legislation early next year. In October, DHS rescinded a rule that would have required employers to fire workers whose information did not match Social Security Administration (SSA) [official website] records. Despite the repeal, the Obama administration has expressed support [press release] for the E-Verify system [official website], a largely voluntary system that also relies on matching employee information with the SSA.

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