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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 15th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 17, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 17, Issue 50

Five arrested in North County ICE operation


The arrest of five people in Northern Santa Barbara County as part of a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweep of Southern California that began on Feb. 6 set off alarms in the local undocumented immigrant community. The operation, which concluded on Feb. 10, targeted those who the agency considered serious threats to public safety, including some gang members, an ICE official told the Sun.

Arrests in Santa Barbara County included one in Los Alamos and four in Santa Maria, said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. The operation—which arrested at least 160 undocumented immigrants in Southern California—began on Monday, Feb. 6, and involved officers in 11 Enforcement and Removal Operations teams that swept a seven-county area of Southern California, Kice said.

It’s unclear whether any of the people rounded up in a weeklong ICE operation in North County were held at Santa Maria’s controversial ICE facility (pictured), which was built in 2015.

“Our officers prioritize cases based on a variety of factors, including the person’s criminal and immigration history, as well as the viability of the leads we have on the individual’s possible whereabouts,” Kice said. “Determinations about where and how ICE enforcement personnel affect both administrative and criminal arrests are made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all aspects of the situation, including the prospective target’s criminal history and safety considerations.”

The California operation coincided with raids in at least five other states, including Texas, Georgia, Illinois, and the Carolinas, according to The Washington Post, resulting in the arrests of hundreds.

Though Kice said the California operation was routine, it comes less than a month after President Donald Trump took office, pledging to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. It also comes less than two weeks after Trump signed a Jan. 25 executive order on immigration that included the removal of those accused of non-violent crimes such as identity fraud.

An ICE holding facility in Santa Maria, which was built in the summer of 2015, was designed to hold undocumented immigrants with criminal records, although it’s uncertain whether any of the people recently arrested in North County were held there. The Sun wasn’t able to obtain more specific information on the arrests before deadline.

As news of the ICE raids spread, Gabby Hernandez from PODER (People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth) said she began receiving panicked phone calls from the county’s undocumented community about house raids and roving checkpoints. Kice denied the existence of any checkpoints.

Hernandez believes this is simply the first wave of arrests before ICE begins targeting what she calls “everyday undocumented peoples.”

“We kind of knew the first wave would be people the community wouldn’t really care about so people would be in support of these raids,” Hernandez told the Sun, adding that ICE’s immediate media campaign following the operation was designed to garner support.

The Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) estimates there are nearly 40,000 undocumented immigrants living in Santa Barbara County.

Hernandez and PODER are working with CAUSE and other groups to create a “social network” to keep undocumented immigrants informed of the situation and their rights. In the past, the groups have handed out red cards with information about civil rights to help in case someone gets stopped by immigration officials.

Hernandez said she is currently working to generate more cards. PODER will post the addresses of places where cards can be picked up on its Facebook page. Anyone who wishes to receive a card can simply send a message to the organization’s Facebook page, Hernandez said.

“Whether somebody here is documented or not, they still have some rights—the right to remain silent and to speak to an attorney,” Hernandez said. “If they don’t want to answer questions, they can simply hand over the card.”

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