Helicopter targets: After immigration agents arrest 3 in Huron County, likely 'more to come'
By Chris Aldridge Tribune Staff Writer
HURON COUNTY — Helicopters flying over Bad Axe three weeks ago taking photos are linked to federal special agents’ arrests of three locals Friday morning they say were involved in criminal activities involving illegal immigrants — and the arrests could possibly lead to further investigation “beyond the boundaries of our county,” according to Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson.
Special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested two adult females and one adult male at about 6:30 a.m. Friday, according to the sheriff’s office. They were taken to the Bay City federal courthouse to be arraigned on federal charges Friday afternoon, an ICE public affairs officer told the Tribune in an email.
Hanson says the investigation leading to the arrests started with his office and Bad Axe police. He told the Tribune he could not say what prompted the investigation, but there’s “more than likely more to come.”
“We turned our information over to ICE, and this may have possibilities to go beyond the boundaries of our county,” Hanson said.
Hanson said he wasn’t told whether Friday’s arrests are connected to the Sanilac couple, Yolanda and Ralph Stewart, who federal prosecutors charged with conspiring to supply Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac dairy farms with illegal U.S. workers. The charges came the week after helicopters hovered overhead in Bad Axe on Dec. 18, but were later dropped because prosecutors said they needed more time to put together a case.
ICE isn’t giving a “play-by-play of what they’re doing,” Hanson said, adding the agency isn’t obligated to and he doesn’t expect it. Asked if Friday’s arrests were a success in the investigation, the sheriff said he couldn’t comment other than to say it’s “more than accusations.”
Hanson said residents called his office asking about helicopters flying in the area Friday. One call came in from a Verona Township resident who lived east of M-19 and reported seeing the helicopter at about 7 a.m. and was concerned, he said.
The call came a half hour after the arrests, and Hanson says he told the resident it was part of an ICE investigation, there’s no reason to be alarmed and there’s no safety issue.
Helicopters and other federal aircraft are “no stranger to the shoreline,” Hanson said.
“You’re apt to see them go through the area, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
However, changes in federal immigration policies have brought confusion when it comes to local enforcement.
Hanson, in his eighth year as sheriff, said the Obama Administration has changed immigration policies three times.
“It does cause confusion,” he said.
Currently, unless an illegal immigrant has committed a crime, feds are not interested in picking them up, Hanson said.
Five years ago, in Huron County, Hanson says there were more than 200 illegal immigrants.
“We’re not running into the amount we once did,” he said. “(But) we know they’re still there.”
When local authorities did find illegal immigrants, Hanson says it usually involved a call for domestic violence or traffic stop.
“It wasn’t us going to farms looking for them,” he said.
As for risks to residents due to the helicopters, investigations, arrests or any other worries, Hanson says there are none that he is aware of.
The Tribune requested a copy of the criminal complaint from ICE filed at the Bay City federal court, but did not receive the document Friday. A message seeking whether ICE will continue to monitor Huron County by helicopter, or any other means, or neighboring counties in relation to the arrests or for any other reasons, was also left with ICE.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Helicopter targets: After immigration agents arrest 3 in Huron County, likely 'more to come' (Huron Daily Tribune)
Helicopter targets: After immigration agents arrest 3 in Huron County, likely 'more to come'
Friday, January 8, 2016
Possible raid in Tyler conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Posted: Jan 03, 2016 11:10 PM EST
Updated: Jan 04, 2016 12:05 AM EST
By Paul Rivera
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - We're learning new details about a potential raid conducted Sunday morning by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Workers at the “Panaderia Nuevo León” at 323 North Beckham, say they saw ICE agents arresting someone around 8 a.m. in the parking lot.
There are conflicting reports on how many people were arrested, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not comment on any arrests made.
Pictures from Facebook show several ICE agents in the parking lot outside of Panaderia Nuevo León.
"They basically were kind of walking outside asking people, I'm not sure if they were asking for papers, or if they were asking for someone, but we've understood that they were looking for someone," says Yesenia Garcia, who works at Panaderia Nuevo León.
She says another picture from Facebook shows someone being arrested.
"They stopped a person and they asked for fingerprints and then they took him in," says Garcia.
Garcia says it didn't take long, but those few minutes frightened many.
"We've had hundreds of calls throughout the morning wondering if this is true and if they were here to pick up people," says Garcia, adding that conflicting stories of what happened have also added to the fear.
"For some reason, things have said, people have said, hundreds of people have been picked up and the truth is, it was outside of our bakery and it was just one person," says Garcia.
Francisco Serrono, who works at Super Mercado Monterrey, heard about what happened, and believes these agents are looking for very specific people.
"I think they come looking for people that owe tickets, or something, arrest warrants, because here they've come one or two times and they haven't said anything, they just take the person they're looking for and that's it," says Serrono.
Serrono and Garcia don't want people to live in fear.
"One can't eat, or sleep, or do anything, nonetheless, thinking about what time they arrive, what time they leave, and all of that. It's best to not think anything and that's it. They came and they went," says Serrono.
"They're just here to do their job and then they're leaving, they're not really trying to cause some trouble even though it is troubling for some people," says Garcia.
Tyler Police and the Smith County Sheriff's Office say they were not aware of any incident that occurred today involving ICE Agents. The sheriff's office says they've assisted ICE in the past on fugitive arrests and housing inmates.
A statement from ICE today says they focus on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.
Deportation raids to continue, despite outcry
By Pamela Constable
January 8 at 8:34 PM
ATLANTA — It is quiet now, a little too quiet, along the suburban avenues lined with Salvadoran pupusa shops and Guatemalan bakeries. The stores are emptier than usual, and some of the waitresses and clerks are not showing up at work. Everyone seems to know about last weekend’s raids, when immigration agents pounded on doors before dawn and took mothers and children away.
The deportations have brought the divisive issue of illegal immigration once again to the political forefront. The raids were the first large-scale effort to deport families who had fled violence and poverty in Central America in 2014 and 2015. More than 100,000 families with adults and children crossed the southwestern border.
Despite an uproar from liberal Democrats and Latino advocacy groups, administration officials said Friday that they intend to continue the raids, hoping to send a signal and prevent a repeat of the huge surge in illegal border crossings. Although the numbers dipped last spring, a new spike saw more than 10,000 children reach the border in October and November alone.
“The enforcement strategy and priorities that the administration has articulated are not going to change,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. “Individuals who recently crossed the border are priorities for removal.”
Earnest noted that after immigration reform efforts failed in Congress, Obama acted on his own to shield from deportation 700,000 young illegal immigrants who had been here for years. “You have a president of the United States who has worked hard to use his own executive authority to try to make the process more fair,” he said.
Some Democratic leaders, including House Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), have expressed concern about the raids, and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling on Obama to offer affected families temporary legal protection.
“We have a refugee crisis, not an immigration problem,” Gutierrez said at a rally outside the White House on Friday. Alluding to the epidemic of drugs and gang violence that experts say is fueling the exodus from Central America, Gutierrez said, “We, too, are responsible.”
In all, 121 mothers and children were detained in three states last weekend and sent to federal detention facilities, U.S. officials say. Federal officials said the families targeted for deportation had been processed by immigration courts.
The raids sowed fear and confusion in communities including Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and the greater Washington region, home to tens of thousands of Central Americans. At a time when some Republican presidential hopefuls talk of ridding the country of all of its 11 million illegal immigrants, the crackdown by a Democratic administration has many wondering if they, too, will be targeted.
“People are very confused,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “They hear there are raids going on, but they don’t know why, and they worry they will be affected, too.”
Agents in the bushes
Rene Morales was jolted awake just after 4 a.m. last Saturday in the leafy Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain. His doorbell was buzzing, and someone was pounding on the door. He peered out the window to see a dozen armed federal agents standing among rose bushes and Christmas lights.
They had come for his sister Rosa Vargas and her children, who fled their native Guatemala and walked across the Texas border in July 2014. Morales said Vargas, 36, decided to head north after she witnessed a murder and was threatened by gang members.
“The whole family agreed she would be better off leaving, that she should come here because she would be safe in America,” said Morales, 30, a carpenter with temporary legal status. He said Vargas was issued a work permit and a Social Security number when she was released from border detention in 2014 and found work cleaning houses in Atlanta after coming to live with him.
The agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement “made me wait outside while they went upstairs,” Morales said. “They said they had an order from a judge. They didn’t hurt anyone, but they shouted a lot.”
After allowing the family to dress and gather a few belongings, the agents put Vargas, 17-year-old Juan and 11-year-old Dankilia into vans and drove off, Morales said. Vargas’s older daughter was allowed to stay behind with her year-old son, who was born in the United States.
By Monday, the others were in a detention center in Texas awaiting deportation, while a lawyer tried to file an emergency appeal.
“Together we were a family, and we made this house a home,” Morales said. “Now there is nothing.”
The raids in the greater Atlanta area were quick, quiet and isolated, advocates said, targeting perhaps a dozen individual homes and apartments across a large metropolitan region. In each case, ICE officials said, the families had been processed by immigration courts, where they had either been denied special relief from deportation or had not applied for it.
Since the raids, advocacy groups here and elsewhere have set up hotlines, held emergency neighborhood meetings and put out website alerts telling people they have the right not to open their doors to ICE agents or provide them with information. Legal aid groups have been deluged with calls from frantic immigrants who think agents are headed their way.
“Of course we are all worried,” said Francisco Perez, a bakery owner from Guatemala who has been here for 12 years. “One hears that now they are separating families, parents from children, even people with work permits. One feels so defenseless.”
Searching for safety
Atlanta’s Latino population has a well-established economic niche but a tense relationship with police and government authorities, advocates say. There have been long-running battles over legal issues such as what immigration status one needs to obtain a driver’s license.
Georgia is one of several states that have passed tough laws limiting the rights of noncitizens, and numerous police departments here have formal agreements to inform ICE when an illegal immigrant is arrested.
Most illegal immigrants in the state are Mexicans who migrated here to pick crops or work in poultry plants and factories. But a growing minority have arrived from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, driven in part by soaring rates of murder and gang violence back home.
Many Central American children and mothers who arrived in the recent border surge have told officials they were trying to escape violence; some have applied for political asylum or other forms of deportation relief. Those cases have been working their way through immigration courts, but legal aid lawyers say few have been finalized.
“The Obama administration is putting families and children on the same level as criminals and terrorists,” said Wendy Young, executive director of Kids in Need of Defense, a Washington-based legal aid agency. “Even if these families do have final deportation orders and their window for appeal has expired, do we know if they had fair hearings, or had access to counsel, or understood the process?”
In one of the raids conducted last weekend, agents took a woman who had been in their custody for a month back to her house outside Atlanta to pick up her two young sons so that all three could be sent to a deportation center in Texas.
Dominga Rivas, 27, a restaurant cook from El Salvador, had been stopped by police for making a wrong turn. She was reported to ICE as an illegal immigrant and handed over to federal agents. When she arrived home early Saturday, her sons, ages 4 and 7, were still sleeping, relatives said.
“The boys were frightened and Dominga was crying,” said her sister, Doris Rivas, 33, a hairdresser who has temporary legal status. “They sent a woman agent to the bedroom and gave them five minutes to get dressed and put their things in a plastic bag. It was such an ugly thing to see.”
Rivas said her sister fled El Salvador in 2014 because her abusive ex-husband had become involved with gangs and threatened to kill her. She applied for asylum after reaching the United States but was turned down.
“If she goes back, her life will be in danger, and so will the boys’, because soon the gangs will start pressuring them to join or be killed,” Rivas said. “Nobody can survive in my country now.”
Immigrants pulled from plane before being deported
By Lomi Kriel
January 7, 2016
Three Salvadoran mothers and their children were removed Thursday from a plane in Laredo that was returning them to their native country after the nation's highest immigration court agreed to halt their deportations while evaluating their asylum petitions.
Two of the mothers already had claims pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals, and attorneys said they were filing one for the third.
The last-minute stay comes a day after the court also temporarily stopped the removal of five other Salvadoran families, raising questions about the government's claims that the immigrants have exhausted their options to legally stay here and that removing them is justified.
They are part of 28 Central American families - 121 women and children in all - detained last weekend in a high-profile national operation, the first of its kind to target immigrants whose unprecedented arrival in 2014 overwhelmed the Obama administration and became a political flash-point.
The New Year's weekend operation, occurring mainly in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, targeted adults and children caught crossing the border after May 1, 2014, who have been told to leave the country by an immigration court and who Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this week were ineligible to stay in the U.S. by seeking asylum or through other means. But the decision by the court to delay the deportation of some of the mothers and children casts doubt on whether that's actually the case.
A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. She said the recent operation targeted families who were subject to final orders of deportation and who didn't have pending appeals at the time of their arrest. So far the agency has removed 77 women and children to Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
Attorneys at the Dilley detention center where the immigrants are being held said they have been able to interview 12 mostly Salvadoran families of the 28 Central American families detained there. But they said they couldn't get access to the remaining 16 families.
The operation has sparked furor among immigrant advocates who say the women and children are being denied their rights to due process. Proponents for reducing immigration, meanwhile, say the 121 migrants are such a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of Central American families who have flooded over the southwest border in the past two years that it doesn't make a dent in the crisis.
The issue highlights the lack of quality legal representation in immigration courts, which unlike criminal courts do not provide attorneys for those who cannot afford them. Advocates say the fact that most of the small pool of immigrants who received legal assistance this week obtained a temporary delay in their deportation shows they are being wrongly removed and could be returned to harm. They say many face deportation orders simply because they don't know they must show up to court or because they lack legal help to navigate the complex asylum process.
Of 905 cases that have been adjudicated of parents who were apprehended with their children at the southwest border, 80 percent ended with migrants ordered deported. In more than two-thirds of those cases, judges issued the orders in absentia because migrants did not appear for their hearings. Families were allowed to legally remain in only 17 percent of the cases.
Fear of persecution
By contrast, 82 percent of more than 16,000 Central American women screened by asylum officers after crossing the border were found to have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their home countries, a criteria for applying for asylum, according to government statistics.
Yet only 30 percent of 26,300 Central American mothers with children who arrived after 2014 had attorneys, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Without counsel, only 1.5 percent were allowed to stay compared to more than a quarter of those with attorneys.
"This whole issue shows yet again how important it is to have good representation" said Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the then-U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. "The whole system moves much more efficiently both for people with hearings in the courts and for the enforcement agencies if there's representation."
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Relative of Border Surge Illegals Apprehended in Raid Claims They Had Work Permits
by CAROLINE MAY
6 Jan 2016
A relative of three border surge migrants apprehended during this weekend’s immigration enforcement raids claims they had work permits granted through the Obama administration’s “deferred action” program.
Rene Morales — whose sister and her two children were apprehended Saturday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — showed CBS46 what he said were “deferred action” work permits.
Morales’ sister and her children arrived in the U.S. in 2014 as part of the surge in unaccompanied minors and “family units,” largely from Central America, who have flooded illegally into the U.S. in recent years. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), however, is technically only for illegal immigrants who have resided continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
CBS’s report did not delve into the origin of the work permits.
Over the weekend the Obama administration began a series of raids on illegal immigrant families who have been ordered removed but remain in the U.S. Over 120 illegal immigrants were apprehended in raids that were conducted largely in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. Morales’ sister and her two children were taken into custody in Atlanta, according to the local CBS report.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox referred questions about the Morales’ alleged work permits to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services but noted that everyone who was apprehended over the weekend had cause for removal.
“[E]veryone arrested over the past weekend had a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge,” Cox emailed Breitbart News.
A Republican Senate aide was hardly surprised that an illegal immigrant with final orders of deportation had been granted work permits.
“Keep in mind, 1 million extra [work permits] are printed each year so there are A LOT of illegal[s] with work permits,” the aide emailed Breibart News.
Indeed, the Obama administration has issued more than 7.4 million work permits to foreign nationals from 2009-2014, beyond the congressionally mandated annual limits. Included in that six-year span is more than 113,800 work permits granted to individuals with final orders of deportation.
Center for Immigration Studies policy studies director Jessica Vaughan was also unfazed by the idea that Morales’ illegal immigrant relatives may have been granted a work permit. She too pointed to the millions of work permits the Obama administration has granted beyond the limits set by Congress.
“The administration’s view is that it has the authority to issue work permits to anyone it chooses, and they do it specifically to avoid the immigration limits that Congress has enacted and that the public supports. They issue work permits because they cannot issue green cards, but a work permit is the next best thing — the alien can get a job, a Social Security card, a travel document, driver’s license, and in general live here as if they were legal,” Vaughan explained to Breitbart News.
Vaughan further dispelled the idea that Morales’s relatives were apprehended improperly, especially under the Obama administration’s enforcement environment.
“I find it hard to believe that an ICE officer would arrest somebody with [deferred action] status,” she said.
In the Morales’ family’s case, Vaughan surmised that the documents Morales presented to the CBS reporter were either fraudulent or granted as an asylum applicant.
A USCIS spokesman was unable to provide additional clarification on the documents Morales showed the CBS46 reporter.
“Based on the clip provided, it is unclear what documents were presented to the reporter. USCIS only grants immigration benefits to those who meet the guidelines for approval,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement.
--- More details ---
Crack down on Central Americans who entered U.S. illegally (KTVQ-Billings, MT)
Stone Mountain, GA -- CBS46 News has confirmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents are cracking down on Central Americans in the Atlanta metro area who entered the U.S. illegally.
"They destroyed me. I hope they feel satisfied. I hope their job is to destroy families, they've accomplished it," said Rene Morales.
His home was one of the first to be hit Saturday in Stone Mountain.
ICE agents showed up and Morales opened the door. His sister and 2 children were taken away.
It was one of several raids ICE agents executed over the weekend.
They told CBS46 they're targeting Central Americans who've recently arrived.
Morales' sister and her children came to the U.S. in 2014 along with a wave of migrants claiming to be fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America.
"I was disappointed," said immigration attorney, Hiba Ghalib.
She told CBS46 she's concerned some of these raids may not be justified.
Morales showed us copies of what he said are work permits granted by the Obama administration, also known as 'deferred action status'.
Ghalib believes agents may be targeting homes of immigrants without knowing their legal status and without a proper warrant.
She's warning her clients.
"If they don't show you a warrant, don't open the door," said Ghalib.
"For my money, I'm happy to see this," said D.A. King, an anti-illegal immigration activist with the Dustin Inman Society.
He supports the crackdown even though he's suspicious of the timing.
"Quite honestly, there's something going on here I don't fully understand," said King; "Every illegal alien should be deported. We're seeing a very small example of Obama political theater," he added.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson would not comment specifically on the timing of these raids.
"I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don't go far enough. I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do, in fact, cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities" said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a written statement.
Secretary Johnson also said more of these raids would be conducted in the future as needed.
Immigration experts told CBS46 News they believe the number of immigrants that could end up being deported by these raids in Georgia are in the thousands.