ACLU Nebraska files lawsuit for information about 2018 immigration raid in O’Neill

By: - August 8, 2022 2:12 pm

(Getty Images)

Saying the federal government has ignored requests for information about an immigration investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed a lawsuit Monday to find out more about a high-profile operation that played out four years ago in O’Neill, Nebraska.

The local ACLU and community advocates documented reports of mistreatment and potential civil rights violations during the August 2018 raid in which 133 people were taken into custody.

The operation at various worksites was based on warrants for 17 people and three companies. The ACLU at that time criticized the federal operation for failing to provide detainees with adequate food, water, shelter and language interpretation services.

“Today work to bring accountability continues,” the ACLU said in a media statement on the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

It is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the department’s Office of Inspector General to compel a release of records related to the investigation and whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated detainee rights.

The ACLU said it initially collaborated with the OIG, which in part is charged with providing independent oversight of immigration enforcement activities. The OIG opened an investigation but never shared the results, said the ACLU.

The ACLU filed a public records request in mid-2020. It said the OIG indicated initially that it would have a response in 20 days, and interviewed some affected individuals, but eventually “cut off contact” with the ACLU.

“There is no such thing as accountability without transparency,” said Jane Seu, an ACLU attorney. “ICE agents conducted this raid, tearing a community apart while using public dollars, and the public has a right to understand what the investigation into that raid looked like and whether any agents faced consequences for any substantiated concerns.”

She said federal law outlines requirements on responding to public records requests. “It’s troubling we have to turn to the judicial system to compel officials to follow the law.”

The Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to a reporter’s request for comment. A spokesperson with ICE said Monday it does not comment on pending litigation.

The ICE spokesperson added that enforcement agents make decisions in a way that “best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland, applying prosecutorial discretion when making such decisions….”


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.