updated 6/8/2009 5:38:48 PM ET 2009-06-08T21:38:48

Federal agents violated the constitutional rights of four illegal immigrants in raids that critics say were retaliation for a New Haven program that provided ID cards to foreigners in the country illegally, a federal judge has ruled.

The sweeps in New Haven on June 6, 2007, came two days after the city approved issuing identification cards to all city residents, regardless of immigration status. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deny the early morning raids were retaliatory, saying planning began the year before.

Immigration Judge Michael Straus, in decisions last week, said the immigration agents went into the immigrants' homes without warrants, probable cause or their consent. He put a stop to deportation proceedings against the four defendants, whose names were not released. Immigration officials claim all four are from Mexico, but all four cited their Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to say what country they are from.

Two of the four immigrants lived in one home, and two lived in a second home. They said in affidavits that agents barged into both homes after residents had opened their doors only a little. The agents went into both homes looking for specific illegal immigrants on a "target list," who weren't found, court documents say.

'Unlawful' entries
Immigration officials have denied claims that the 32 arrests that morning were improper, and they said the people who were arrested had been ordered by judges to leave the country. They said in court documents that they were allowed into the homes during the sweep.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities are reviewing the judge's ruling and will decide later whether to appeal, agency spokeswoman Paula Grenier said Monday. The department has 30 days to file a challenge. Grenier declined further comment.

Witnesses alleged in court documents that parents were arrested in front of their frightened children, agents refused to identify themselves and told people in the homes to shut up.

In his rulings issued June 1 and 2, Straus said the four immigrants' rights were "egregiously violated" and the agents' entries in the apartments were "unlawful."

Of the 32 people arrested, 30 were released on bond or supervision orders. Seventeen of those 30 immigrants challenged their arrests in court.

Yale Law School students are representing the immigrants, who still live in New Haven.

"We're obviously very happy about it," Anant Saraswat, one of the students, said Monday. "We think our clients had a very strong case."

New Haven officials have said the raids appeared to be retaliatory for the ID cards, which are meant to help immigrants open bank accounts and receive city services.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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