- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Five years after immigration agents and local police raided a south Nashville apartment complex, the federal and Nashville governments have agreed to pay $310,000 to 14 people who sued over constitutional violations.

Plaintiffs include 12 Hispanic immigrant men who were arrested, and an American woman and boy who were detained and questioned. As part of the settlement, deportation proceedings against eight of the plaintiffs were deferred for seven years.

Plaintiffs claimed in federal court that the immigration operation was intended to rid the Clairmont Apartments of Hispanic residents, at the request of management. Under the settlement, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit against police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, which have denied any wrongdoing.

The settlement with the officers was announced Monday. A separate settlement with the apartment owners and management was reached earlier this year. Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.

Plaintiff Marvin Benjamin Lopez Raxcaco had been about to go to the store with some friends on Oct. 20, 2010, when their car was surrounded by immigration agents, according to the lawsuit. Although the agents had no warrants, they detained and questioned the men, then arrested them on immigration charges.

Raxcaco, speaking in Spanish, said Monday he was happy with the outcome of the lawsuit, “but the most important thing is that we hope now that this won’t happen again to anyone else.”

Nashville immigration attorney Elliot Ozment said even people who aren’t in the country legally have a right to due process under the law. “Agents of the government broke through doors and broke through windows, and they didn’t have a single warrant,” he said. “We fought for immigrants because today it’s their rights, tomorrow it could be your rights and my rights.”

The plaintiffs were also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick & Dym.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in an emailed statement Monday, the agency “in no way admitted to any wrongdoing, and disputes many of the allegations made in the lawsuit.” He said the agency attempts to administer the nation’s immigration laws “judiciously, fairly and appropriately” and does not conduct raids that target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately.

Keli Oliver, an assistant Metropolitan Nashville attorney, also said the two police defendants did nothing wrong. She said Metro chose to settle the case because it was less expensive than going to trial. Metro paid $10,000 while the federal government paid $300,000.

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