Willmar residents add children to case against federal government

(AP) - Fifteen children were added Thursday to a lawsuit Willmar residents brought against the federal government over an immigration raid in April that resulted in dozens of arrests.

The children's rights were violated when federal agents entered the homes of their parents without search warrants or permission, according to the amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

At a news conference Thursday, plaintiffs' attorney Gloria Contreras-Edin, of the immigrant rights group Centro Legal, read one boy's account of being forcibly removed from his mother's arms by agents after they entered his house.

"That's who the government should be protecting - not violating their civil rights," she said of the children.

The case now involves 53 plaintiffs, including 16 children.

More than 50 illegal immigrants were arrested in the April raid in Willmar, where many Hispanics work at a poultry processor owned by Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp.

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Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said several of those arrested falsely claimed to be Puerto Rican citizens while 18 had criminal convictions.

The plaintiffs claim agents broke into homes and randomly stopped Hispanics and characterize the arrests as an illegal campaign of "terror and intimidation." In their amended complaint, they also accuse 17 additional law enforcement officers of wrongdoing.

ICE spokesman Tim Counts reiterated Thursday that agents involved in the raid acted within the law.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)