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Experts Hail Rare Victory for Immigrants: Zelaya v. Hammer

February 28, 2023 (1 min read)

Miriam Jordan, NYT, Feb. 27, 2023

"Nearly 100 immigrants who were rounded up during a 2018 raid at a meat processing plant in Tennessee have reached a $1.17 million settlement against the U.S. government and federal agents, who they said used racial profiling and excessive force during the operation, stepping on a person’s neck and punching another in the face. The agreement, approved late Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, is very likely the first class settlement over an immigration enforcement operation at a work site, according to immigration experts. In the past, only individual immigrants have reached settlements related to immigration raids. Under the terms of the settlement, members of the lawsuit will receive $550,000, or more than $5,700 each. Six named plaintiffs will receive a total of $475,000 from the federal government to resolve their claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows individuals to be compensated for negligent or wrongful acts by agents of the federal government. ... Legal experts called it a rare victory for undocumented immigrants. “It is very hard to win a settlement from the U.S. government and agents in immigration enforcement cases,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor specializing in immigration at Cornell Law School. “The outcome is particularly important because federal agents were held accountable for overreaching and racial profiling.”

[NILC media release with more quotes and links to documents here.]