Revolution #104, October 14, 2007

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Stop the ICE Raids!

1200 Immigrants Arrested in Massive ICE Sweep in Los Angeles


At 5:15 a.m. on August 30, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents converged at a supermarket parking lot in Maywood, California. Armed and wearing bulletproof vests, they looked through a list of the names and addresses of targeted people before descending upon homes and apartment complexes in the neighborhoods where so-called “criminal aliens” live. This was one of many raids that have taken place throughout Southern California in the past two weeks.

In total 1,200 people have been detained in these massive raids, and at least 600 of those arrested have already been deported. ICE boasts that this is the largest operation they have conducted in the U.S. so far. Most of the arrests took place in Los Angeles—with many people also being picked up in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura County.

As word spread, shopping centers and neighborhoods that are usually full of life and activity became still. Teachers at ESL schools reported dramatically low attendance. A 19-year-old student from Guatemala told Revolution, “I spent six months in jail in San Antonio because I didn’t have papers when I was 16 years old. They deported me, but I risked it again and came back. Imagine what it feels like to know that you could be grabbed at any moment—I just want to send money to my family. I’m no criminal!”

People in the targeted neighborhoods said that many of the arrests have been made at dawn while people are getting ready to go to work or families are still asleep. Now, people don’t open the door to anyone or talk about the whereabouts of their neighbors to anyone they don’t know.

Maria, one of those targeted by ICE as a “fugitive alien,” came to the U.S. when she was 11 years old. She attended college for a while until she couldn’t afford it any more. She married a U.S. citizen and has an infant child. When ICE went into her home, she told them that she was still breastfeeding her baby. Maria told La Opinion, “They arrested me, they handcuffed me in front of my family as if I were a criminal.”  In an unusual turn of events, the ICE did not take her into custody then but gave her a court date. Maria is now trying to get legal representation to change her legal status.

Eight hundred of those detained in these recent raids in the L.A. area were people who were in jail and who were identified as being undocumented. Working together with local law enforcement, ICE detained these immigrants and took them into custody upon their release from the local jails. This is part of the intensifying crackdown where “open season” has been declared on immigrants. Rules, for example, that in many places separated the local police from the federal immigration enforcers are being changed to make every cop into an ICE agent. In order to step up joint work with local police, ICE recently created a command center that is available to local law enforcement 24 hours a day so that they can exchange information about possible deportees. Being arrested for such things as a fight, unpaid traffic tickets, DUI, or a domestic dispute could result in deportation. People who “work hard” and “play by the rules” can be snatched up at any time, their world and that of their families devastated.

According to ICE, 90% of the arrests in the recent Southern California raids were immigrants with “criminal records”—but an unknown number of these were people whose only “crime” is that they were subject to deportation orders. The rest were people who the ICE describes as “collateral arrests”—immigrants who were not on the ICE lists of targeted people but who were caught up in the raids.

The L.A. raids are part of the intensifying ICE sweeps across the country. At the same time as the L.A. raids, on the other side of the country, ICE agents and police carried out what they called “anti-gang” sweeps in Long Island, arresting 186. El Diaro reports that ICE agents came to a house and took away the father of a four-month-old baby, leaving the baby alone by herself for three hours. According to the New York Times, ICE agents and police stormed the house of Peggy Delarosa-Delgado, 42, a U.S. citizen born in the Dominican Republic—the second time this has happened in a year. A nun in the town of Greenport said, “They took guys who I see in church every single week, whose homes I’ve gone into… Some of them work on farms, some of them work construction. They’re family men.”

In northern Nevada in September, ICE agents raided 11 McDonald’s restaurants and arrested dozens of workers. ICE said they arrested 56, but eyewitnesses said that it was at least twice as many.

ICE began their “National Fugitive Operations Teams” in 2003, and more than 30,000 people have been arrested in 2007—with no end in sight. These raids are part of what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE officially call “ENDGAME: Office of Detention and Removal Strategic Plan, 2003-2012 Detention and Removal Strategy for a Secure Homeland.” According to the ICE web site, they “locate and arrest aliens who have been ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge, but have failed to comply.” As of September 27, ICE had 595,000 people in their sights to arrest and deport as part of ENGAME.

These raids and deportations are part of a larger repressive agenda aimed at terrorizing an entire section of people. Emboldened by their self-described “success,” ICE plans to continue expanding the Gestapo-style Fugitive Operations Teams across the country. There are currently 75 such teams deployed throughout the U.S.—5 are currently assigned to the L.A. area, more than any other city in the country.

During massive ICE raids in Nassau County, NY, on September 24 and 26, ICE agents spread such widespread fear and chaos that local goverment officials protested to Homeland Security. The New York Times reported, “Scores of federal immigration agents from around the country, some wearing cowboy hats and brandishing shotguns and automatic weapons, endangered residents and local police.” Most of those arrested had no criminal records beyond being undocumented.

 “There are always those who have to be the first ones. In school I read about a young African-American woman who was the first to go to a white school in the 1950s. They threatened her with lynching. But she was brave and she dared [to go to school],” an ESL student from Mexico told Revolution. “We also have to be brave. Things are really serious now… They’re snatching us up like criminals in front of our children. This isn’t right. What can we do? I want to know the answer to that.”

These ICE raids must be opposed wherever they occur. And beyond that, and very importantly, all those who refuse to stand by while these gestapo raids are carried out against immigrants must take to the streets on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.

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