U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in action, 2011.
The immigration agents who arrived at Daniel Ramirez Medina’s home in Seattle last week detained his father first. Then they came back inside and took the twenty-three-year-old Mexican immigrant, even after he told them he had a work permit, granted to him under President Obama’s deferred action program.
As they booked him at a processing center in Seattle, after taking possession of his work permit and other belongings, Ramirez Medina repeated that he had protection under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The agents replied, “It doesn’t matter because you weren’t born in this country,” according to a lawsuit. His lawyer says Ramirez Medina, now imprisoned in Tacoma, Washington, has no criminal record.
In El Paso County, an undocumented transgender woman went to court to seek a protective order against an alleged abuser. She walked out in the custody of half a dozen ICE agents. County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, who called the presence of ICE agents at the courthouse “unprecedented,” speculates they knew about the hearing because of a tip from the man she accused of domestic violence.
These are some of the stories coming out of last week’s nationwide immigration raids, which swept up more than 680 people and have terrorized the country’s immigrant communities. False reports on social media of ICE patrols spread like wildfire in some communities causing even more panic.
While both fear and aggression are at an all-time high, some news reports suggest the actual roundups by ICE have not increased since Trump took office.
Meanwhile, several lawmakers demanding answers for their Latino and immigrant constituents have been rebuffed by ICE and the Republican House leadership.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Representative Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois and a vocal supporter of immigrant rights, were barred from a meeting with ICE’s Acting Director Thomas Homan on Thursday. Hispanic Caucus lawmakers had been snubbed earlier in the week when the agency cancelled a Tuesday meeting, claiming there were too many Democrats.
Those who did get to meet with ICE Thursday expressed grave concern at what they heard during a press conference afterward.
“It was hard to not leave that meeting and believe the Trump Administration is going to target as many immigrants as possible,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, said. “The only hesitation they seemed to have was whether they would go after DACA recipients.”
Castro later tweeted:
Other Democrats present—including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Congress Hispanic Caucus chair Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico—reported that ICE did not provide numbers on DACA arrests as lawmakers had requested. They said Homan claimed agents had not specifically targeted deferred action recipients during last week’s raids.
Professor Jacqueline Stevens, who heads the Deportation Research Clinic at Northwestern University, told The Progressive that the tactics ICE agents reportedly employed —from arresting immigrants they weren’t originally targeting to detaining a man as he left a church—harken back to the Bush era. Some of the more underhanded practices, she said, were curtailed in the latter part of the Obama administration, which nevertheless managed to deport a record-high 2.8 million people.
Stevens, who has studied the practices of ICE for many years, says that sometimes agents do things that aren’t in accordance with instructions from their superiors. Such might have been the case with the arrest of the DACA recipient.
“A lot of this isn’t based on top-down orders,” Stevens said. “They’re not necessarily following the law and due process.”
That raids occurred in cities whose leaders had publicly sparred with Trump over offering sanctuary to immigrants underscores the tenuous protection the designation actually offers. When a jurisdiction declares itself a sanctuary, it generally means that local law enforcement is instructed to refuse to cooperate with ICE, though immigration agents can still make their own arrests in the cities or counties in question.
If local leaders really want to provide sanctuary, Stevens said, they should start prosecuting ICE agents for violating laws against false imprisonment and kidnapping, among other acts.
The lack of transparency, especially at a time of radical change in policy, is particularly galling, said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
The lack of transparency, especially at a time of radical change in policy, is particularly galling.
“ICE has never been particularly known for its transparency,” he said “But the sheer sweep of operations really call for some clarity, some fairly detailed explanation of what they are doing.”
Tsao is especially alarmed at the case of the transgender woman in El Paso.
“Usually ICE agents have much more respect not only for vulnerable individuals, but also locations such as courthouses, schools and churches,” he told The Progressive. “If this is a trend it's particularly dangerous . . . because it can chill many immigrants from seeking help.”