Things That Matter

A City Claims A Family Can’t Sue Over A Wrongful Death Because Undocumented People Don’t Have Rights Under Constitution

The original wording of the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution stated, that “‘each man’s home is his castle,’ secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.” A revised version states, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In other words, authorities cannot probe into people’s private information, home or belongings, without probable cause. Those laws apply to everyone, right? That’s not what some officials in one city in the United States believe. They’re claiming those laws do not apply to undocumented immigrants. 

In 2017, police were called to check on a domestic abuse suspect in Southaven, Mississippi. They went to the wrong house and shot and killed Ismael Lopez. 

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

On a late Sunday evening, in July of 2017, police were called to serve a warrant for the arrest of a suspected domestic abuser named Samuel Pearman. His address was 5878 Surrey Lane, CNN reported, and police ended up going to a mobile home across the street where Ismael Lopez lived with his wife. Police entered Lopez’s home and ended up shooting him in the back of the head. He died on the scene. 

“It is so troubling to learn that not only this man died but that this man died running away from people who were trespassing on his premises after he was in bed lawfully,” Murray Wells, an attorney representing the Lopez’s family, told reporters, according to CNN

The Lopez family filed a $20 million lawsuit for his death after a jury failed to indict the police officers on the scene. The City of Southaven fired back with their own lawsuit saying Lopez has no rights under the constitution because he was an undocumented immigrant.

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

This case is like most cases involving the police, the investigation had conflicting reports. Lopez’s wife claims the police came in unannounced, and the lawyer says bullet holes outside of the home support her story. The police say that Lopez pointed a gun at them. However, Lopez’s wife said that wasn’t the case. The police also shot and killed their dog. City attorneys are also questioning the credibility of Lopez’s widow, with claims they were never married, and that she was married to multiple men. Lopez’s attorney showed the documents to prove they were legally married in 2003. 

“It’s a real shame that they have to use these tactics to soil someone’s name when she lost her partner, the love of her life, in a tragic accident,” attorney Aaron Neglia said according to the Washington Post

So, does the constitution protect undocumented immigrants? The answer is a resounding yes even though the matter is still taken up in courts all the time.

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

“Yes, without question,” Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School told PBS. “Most of the provisions of the Constitution apply on the basis of personhood and jurisdiction in the United States.”

Undocumented immigrants have the right to legal counsel, under the Sixth Amendment, they also have the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. So, if the courts are already practicing the law under the constitution when it applies to undocumented immigrants, then the Fourth Amendment and all of them for that matter apply to them as well. 

Southaven attorneys have a different point of view. According to the Washington Post, attorney Katherine S. Kerby wrote, “If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. Ismael Lopez may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit.”

We shall see how this case plays out in court.

Watch the full news report below.

READ: Advocacy Groups Suing ICE For Mass Raid In Tennessee, Claiming They Violated Workers’ Constitutional Rights

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