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06-11-06, 12:18 AM #1
Neighbors panicky in aftermath of sweeps
June 10, 2006
An eerie quiet has descended over the past week on Fulton Street, a stretch of weather-beaten apartment buildings in eastern Linda Vista that is home to a large number of recent immigrants, some of them legal residents, others not.
Some people have skipped work. Others have skipped doctor appointments. Children are walking to school more frequently by themselves, neighbors say, because their parents are afraid to accompany them outside.
“Today the migra was here,” explained Jose Cardenas, 30, one of those here legally, on a gray afternoon this week when the sidewalks were empty and the street deserted save for passing cars. “People hide, and they don't come out.”
Last Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego launched a six-day special operation to seek out immigration fugitives or “absconders” who have failed to comply with deportation orders, haven't shown up at immigration hearings or have committed a deportable offense.
It was part of a stepped-up nationwide effort since last fall to target an estimated 590,000 immigration fugitives in the United States, about 5,400 of whom are thought to reside in the San Diego area.
The apartments on Fulton Street were one of several sites agents searched countywide in the past week, with an initial search June 2, then a subsequent visit this week, residents said.
In the typical fugitive search, immigration agents target the homes of individuals being sought. Whether the person is there or not, other occupants are questioned, and anyone found lacking legal documentation is arrested. Others in the vicinity are frequently questioned, and if they are suspected of living in the country illegally, they are also detained.
Agents do not, however, raid other homes randomly. Yet whenever one of these operations occurs, the initial shock that hits neighbors quickly turns into panic and rumors begin to circulate. Calls from people who saw neighbors taken away begin pouring in to organizations such at the American Friends Service Committee, a human rights group affiliated with the Quaker faith that assists immigrants in San Diego.
“People say, 'Are they going to come back for us?' ” said Pedro Rios of the committee, who fields calls from those who have had relatives arrested and from panicked neighbors. “Neighbors will call and say, 'There was a raid next door, is it going to happen at my house?' All these sorts of questions start coming in.”
In the roughly three years since they began conducting fugitive searches in San Diego, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement have tried to get the word out that these searches are not random, even meeting with the American Friends at one point to explain who is targeted and who isn't.
“They are not randomly knocking on people's doors,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the federal agency. “They are knocking at residences where the people they are looking for appear to be.”
But the chilling effect is undeniable. On Tuesday, the day Fulton Street residents said immigration agents had returned in the morning and made additional arrests, the wide lawns fronting the apartment buildings were devoid of the usual after-school activity.
“Usually at this hour, a lot of people are out here with their children,” said a woman who did not want her name used because she is here illegally. “It looks different now.”
Adding to the fear is that although the home searches are not random, people who are in the vicinity outside – walking down the street, in the driveway, at a bus stop – are subject to questioning. Mack said this is common practice.
“They sometimes will find people in the vicinity and question them on their immigration status,” she said. “If they are in violation of immigration laws, they will arrest them.”
The Linda Vista woman said her uncle was arrested after agents came to their door searching for a person who no longer lived there, but questioned the existing occupants anyway. She was allowed to stay because she was minding a young nephew.
Another 18-year-old nephew, however, was arrested nearby at a bus stop on his way to work.
Cardenas, their neighbor, said this practice in itself makes fugitive searches more random than officials say.
“They are grabbing anybody, anywhere,” he complained.
The panic that has grabbed hold of the neighborhood continues. Thursday, residents said they had seen Border Patrol vehicles in the area, though a spokesman said agents had not been involved in any operations there.
Altogether, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested 441 individuals during the past week's San Diego County operation, although officials did not break out how many of those were actually being sought.
Two people were arrested after they accidentally rear-ended an agency van and were found to be undocumented.
Several of those arrested had criminal records, including one person who had been deported twice after serving time for sexual assault on a minor.
Since last fall, the agency has increased its fugitive operations teams nationwide from 18 to 38, and has plans to expand to 52 teams by the end of the year. The Bush administration has proposed funding for a total of 70 teams.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched its national fugitive operations program in March 2003. Since then, more than 44,000 people have been arrested, including 33,343 fugitives and 10,777 non-fugitives, according to the agency, including about 20,000 with criminal records. These include undocumented immigrants and deportable legal residents. More than 12,000 arrests have been made nationwide since October
06-11-06, 12:43 AM #2
"“They are grabbing anybody, anywhere,” he complained."
Ain't grabbing me.
We are the thin blue line
and all the money in the world.
And no you can't have any.
06-11-06, 12:55 AM #3
I used to work that neighborhood. It is infested with Undocumented Aliens, I am happy for all the good people in that neighborhood thathave to put up with all thier shit, piece of crap cars, unlicensed drivers and those that are not paying taxes and bankrupting social services....
06-11-06, 01:12 AM #4“If they are in violation of immigration laws, they will arrest them.”
People seem to think it's ok to flaunt anything and everything in relation to immigration. Sorry guys, a hundred and sixty years ago my family immigrated, and did it legally, and it was a LOT harder then, involving weeks if not months on a crowded ship, and you were on your own when you got here. TANSTAAFL, even then. What happened since then that they think they get a free ride?\\` ` ` ` < ` )___/\
`` ` ` ` (3--(____)
"...but to forget your duck, of course, means you're really screwed." - Gary Larson
06-11-06, 01:17 AM #5
If they were in compliance with the law, they'd have nothing to worry about.
Frankly I think they deserve what they get."My motivation is slipping, people bug me, and I'm tired of wasting my time on drivel."
- Rep. Otis Pike (D - NY)
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