Residents wake to sounds of ICE searching for suspects; dozens arrested across county
by Meghan Lopez
Thursday, February 16th 2017
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KFOX14) — Residents of a mobile home park in Las Cruces say they were woken up early Wednesday morning with ICE agents pounding on their doors.
Residents of Alameda Acres mobile home park say the agents said they were looking for someone but went door to door asking people to see their papers.
“I heard they were looking for undocumented people because my neighbors are saying that not only was ICE there, but Border Patrol was there,” said Lizzett Solis.
According to Solis, ICE agents even forced their way into her neighbor’s home.
“She's pregnant and they went in there into her house. They didn't even show her a clear picture, they showed her a piece of paper saying that they're looking for somebody,” she said.
Solis said when the agents didn’t find anyone, they moved on to the next house.
“We are all panicking, we were all scared,” Solis said. “Is this going to be happening all the time now? I mean why us?”
According to Dona Ana County jail records, three people were picked up from that mobile home park. Mary Valdez lives next door to the men and says she was getting ready for work when he was detained by ICE agents.
“I've been crying all day to tell you the truth because it's very hard to see this happening especially to nice people like them, especially to little kids. It breaks my heart,” Valdez said. Valdez says she her grandkids are friends with Rene Villanueva-Hernadez’s two young children.
“He's always playing with them football, basketball he's always or they're always going for walks I always see them going for walks. He's a good dad. I've never had any complaints,” Valdez said.
According to jail records, Hernadez was booked into the Dona Ana County jail around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday without a bond.
“It happened so early in the morning so he wasn't even prepared. The kids were not prepared. And heaven knows what happened in there,” Valdez said.
Valdez said she found out about Hernadez’s arrest from his son while he was waiting at the stop for his school bus that day.
“So my daughter asked him and he said, ‘Yeah they took my dad.’”
Valdez describes Hernadez as a good neighbor who was always willing to lend a helping hand.
“He comes and does my yard for free. I borrow things from him, he borrows things from me,” she said.
She says she is worried for the children, who she believes are now staying with their grandmother.
“I can't imagine what they're going through, this fear,” she said. “Those kids are suffering right now.” According to the jail records for Hernandez, there is no bond and there was no warrant issued.
ICE has still not officially confirmed that any immigration enforcement operations have happened this week in Las Cruces.
In a statement, ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa said, “ICE will not confirm an operation prior to its completion, nor will ICE speculate on future operational activities.”
This is what KFOX14 found digging through the Dona Ana County Jail records from the past week:
Total number of people arrested on immigration violations: 27
People arrested on smuggling charges: 1
Number of immigrants from Mexico: 22
Number of immigrants from unknown countries: 5
DUSM named as the arresting agency: 18
Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office named as the arresting agency: 1
ICE named as the arresting agency: 3
Border Patrol named as the arresting agency: 5
Number of people arrested at the Dona Ana County Federal Courthouse: 20
Number of people arrested at other locations: 7
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Residents wake to sounds of ICE searching for suspects; dozens arrested across county
Border Patrol arrests 9 on Grand Island
WGRZ 11:14 PM. EST February 15, 2017
GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. -- Nine people have been taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Grand Island.
CBP tells 2 On Your Side that one of those immigrants was a convicted sex offender from Mexico, who had already been deported once.
Multiple witnesses confirmed Border Patrol agents were on scene at a Rite Aid on Grand Island Boulevard on Wednesday, but the Border Patrol would not confirm the extent of that activity or how it relates to the nine arrests.
Lisarenee Guagliano was inside the Rite Aid store in Grand Island when Border Patrol agents appeared to take one man into custody. In a phone interview with 2 On Your Side, Guagliano said the man rushed into the bathroom after appearing to spot the Border Patrol agents outside the store window.
"Next thing I knew, there were five Border Patrol (agents) in there, and they walk toward the men's room-- because everyone pointed out that's where he was," Guagliano said. "There wasn't a struggle or anything. They just kind of walked him out after that."
The Border Patrol could not confirm where the other people were taken into custody by federal agents.
The nine arrests made in Grand Island come just two days after Border Patrol agents took 23 people into custody at a convenience store in Hamburg. It's unclear if the situation in Hamburg has any direct connection to the situation in Grand Island.
Matthew Kolken, an attorney who specializes in immigration law, said it'd be unwise to jump to the conclusion that the Trump administration played a role in the Border Patrol's activity this week in Western New York.
"I believe that what we're seeing now may have been in the planning stages for months," Kolken said, "and now, we're just seeing them executed."
The Trump administration, however, is likely to take a more hard-line approach.
"This is the biggest change in policy from President Obama to President Trump-- they are no longer favorably exercising prosecutorial discretion on behalf of individuals who are not a priority for deportation," Kolken said. "Pretty much anyone in this country now in violation of U.S. immigration law, is subject to being taken into custody."
The one individual with a previous deportation and criminal conviction could be subject to criminal prosecution, but the other people apprehended by Border Patrol this week will likely face immigration court in Western New York. They will have an opportunity for due process in those proceedings, and in the end, some could even become eligible for green cards.
But the Border Patrol's spokesperson said the agency is continuing to process the people arrested in Grand Island on Wednesday.
"Depending on the facts and circumstances, that'll determine whether or not they'll be required to remain in custody during the duration of their immigration court battles," Kolken said.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
ICE Agents Arrest Men Leaving Alexandria Church Shelter
By Julie Carey
Published at 6:17 PM EST on Feb 15, 2017 | Updated at 7:50 PM EST on Feb 15, 2017
Some are questioning the way Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are handling arrests in Fairfax County after at least two men were arrested near a church shelter.
Oscar Ramirez said he had just left the hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church on Russell Road in Alexandria, Virginia, when about a dozen ICE agents surround him and other Latino men.
"'Stop right there. Stop right there. Stop right there. Stay by the wall, where we can see your hands,'" the agents said, according to Ramirez.
The group of men had left the shelter about 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 and crossed the street when the ICE agents ordered them to stand against a brick wall.
Ramirez said the agents questioned all of them and scanned their fingers to find out if they had criminal backgrounds. Agents quickly cleared Ramirez, who has a green card, he said.
But he and other witnesses told News4 that about six Latino men were arrested and taken away in two vans that pulled up to the area where they had been stopped.
"This is the first time I see something like that," Ramirez said.
"It surprised me. I mean, I think it surprised a lot of people who seen it actually happen," said Marvin Roach, a guest at the church shelter.
"They were clearly targeting the church because they knew that they stayed here in the hypothermia shelter. So they were waiting for them to cross the street and then jump on them," said Rising Hope Mission Church Rev. Keary Kincannon.
An ICE spokeswoman said the agency's "sensitive location" policy was followed. The policy requires agents to avoid arresting people at places of worship, schools and medical facilities. The spokeswoman emphasized the arrests took place across the street from the church and not on church property.
ICE detains alleged domestic violence victim
Marty Schladen, USA Today Network Austin Bureau
Published 3:49 p.m. MT Feb. 15, 2017
AUSTIN — Federal immigration agents went to the El Paso County Courthouse last week and arrested an undocumented woman who had just received a protective order alleging that she was a victim of domestic violence.
The agents apparently detained the woman Feb. 9 after receiving a tip, possibly from her alleged abuser, whom they already had in custody, El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said.
The detention has alarmed Bernal and other county officials who fear that the arrest will scare undocumented victims of domestic abuse into staying with their abusers for fear of being deported and separated from their children or other family members.
However, a criminal complaint on file with the U.S. District Court in El Paso indicates that a person of the same name as the alleged victim might have a history of deportation and domestic violence.
Bernal was not aware of the complaint, filed by U.S. immigration officials, when she spoke about the arrest earlier in the day. She said, however, that her office cooperates with federal authorities when serious crimes are alleged.
But she and other officials said protective-order courts are not the place for immigrant detentions.
“Our clients come to us at the lowest point in their lives,” said Bernal, whose office represents domestic abuse victims when they seek court orders against their abusers. “Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns.”
Bernal said her office is taking steps to relieve those fears in the wake of last week’s arrest.
The alleged abuser, Mario Alberto De Avila, is jailed on a charge of forgery of a financial document, the criminal complaint states.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment Wednesday to questions about the incident.
The criminal complaint states that on Feb. 2, Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Taskforce agents received information that Irvin Gonzalez, who also is known as Ervin Gonzalez, was in the U.S. despite having been previously deported. The information received stated that Gonzalez was staying at the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence.
The complaint, filed Feb. 9, indicates that Gonzalez, whom Bernal identified as transgender, had been deported six times since 2010 — apparently after arrests for crimes including possession of stolen mail, false imprisonment and assault.
Its narrative differs, however, from what Bernal unearthed in her investigation in a key respect. The complaint says Gonzalez was arrested on the street, while investigators looking into the detention for Bernal said it happened inside the courthouse.
"There were six ICE agents on the 10th floor," Bernal said.
The arrest comes at a time of heightened concerns that under the administration of President Donald Trump, ICE is expanding who it tries to deport and how it goes about deporting them.
The woman is being held in the El Paso County Jail under a federal ICE detainer, Bernal said.
Her arrest comes to light along with news that ICE conducted an immigration raid in Las Cruces on Wednesday, rounded up 51 people in Austin since last week and conducted sweeps in numerous other states.
Bernal, whose office is conducting an investigation into the incident, said the ICE agents said they went to court after receiving a tip. Gonzalez's live-in boyfriend had earlier been detained by ICE, Bernal said.
“We suspect it’s the (alleged) abuser” who tipped off ICE about the woman, Bernal said.
El Paso County officials say they don't want ICE to get into the habit of going to the courthouse and acting on such tips.
It’s common for abusers to seek to control undocumented partners by threatening to refer them to immigration authorities, said 65th District Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued Gonzalez's protective order.
Whatever her own history, the woman made three police reports late last year, alleging that she had been punched, kicked and chased with a knife, Bernal said.
Judge Gutierrez said ICE agents should avoid effectively assisting domestic abusers by acting on their tips against their partners.
“There’s no place for that — especially in family court,” she said.
Bernal said she’s doing all she can to reassure victims of abuse — especially if they're undocumented.
“We will do everything in our power to get them the protection they need,” she said, explaining that her office does not inquire about abuse victims' citizenship.
Bernal’s staff is also researching immigration law and is trying to communicate to ICE to make sure further arrests don't take place in or near family court.
“We are hopeful that this is an isolated incident and that this never happens again,” she said.
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said she is worried that word about the woman's arrest is already spreading in the immigrant community — which is large in a border city such as El Paso.
The county judge said she is considering asking Bernal’s office to work with civil rights groups to put together a pamphlet explaining people’s rights when they’re approached by federal agents. She said similar pamphlets were distributed in the 1990s after agents started asking students’ immigration status near Bowie High School, which lies within shouting distance of the Mexican border.
It's possible that not only undocumented victims of abuse will be scared into the shadows, said Stephanie Karr, executive director of El Paso's Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. Victims are beaten down physically and emotionally and reluctant to come forward without the fear of arrest, she said.
"It's certainly an underreported crime," Karr said. "If there's a fear they or their families will get deported, they won't come forward."
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
ICE arrest of Apalachicola man fuels fears
Published 6:47 p.m. ET Feb. 14, 2017
Deportation fears are spreading in North Florida following a crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the arrest of a well-known Apalachicola man who fled his homeland years ago.
Last week, ICE officers arrested more than 680 people across the country in a series of operations that targeted specific people, including convicted criminal aliens and gang members, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a news release.
ICE officials said the operations did not include arrests in Florida. However, ICE officers on Friday arrested Jose Francisco “Pancho” Grijalva Monroy, 50, of Apalachicola, on immigration charges, the agency confirmed. ICE officials would not say why he was arrested or discuss details of his case.
Monroy, who fled his native El Salvador more than 20 years ago, lived for years in the small coastal town and was a well-regarded manager at the local Piggly Wiggly. He is being detained in the Wakulla County Jail, according to ICE’s online detainee locator.
Neil Rambana of Tallahassee, who practices immigration law with his wife Elizabeth Ricci, couldn’t confirm or deny whether Monroy was his client. However, Rambana was able to discuss an unnamed client who was recently arrested by ICE.
Rambana said the man had a temporary protective status allowing him to remain in the country while he went through an application process. He said the man has family, including children who are U.S. citizens.
“It’s frightening that he’s going to be separated from his family who he has helped to raise and establish in the community by purchasing a home and paying taxes,” he said. “And now all of that is about to disappear. It’s incredibly difficult for him and his family.”
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Jan. 25 directing agencies to prioritize the removal of aliens who have been charged or convicted with crimes or who pose a risk to public safety or national security. The order also prioritizes the removal of aliens who engaged in “willful misrepresentation” before a governmental agency.
Trump touted the ICE operations in a Feb. 12 tweet: "The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!"
The executive action, along with last week’s ICE operation, has non U.S. citizens on edge. Ricci said some have called her office saying they aren’t taking their kids to school or they’re afraid to visit loved ones in detention facilities for fear they’ll be picked up. One permanent resident from Mexico expressed fears he wouldn’t be able to come and go despite having a green card.
“So there is rampant fear right now, especially because we saw in our own backyard in Apalachicola that there was a sweep,” she said. “People are just scared. And without that citizenship, they’re not going to feel comfortable. And unfortunately, even with citizenship, I think people, especially those with thick accents or who ‘look foreign’ are still going to be fearful.”
Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said his office had no involvement with Monroy’s arrest and didn’t learn about it until afterward from a local resident. He called ICE’s decision not to contact him “unprofessional” and said he planned to call Sen. Bill Nelson to discuss it.
“We’re all law enforcement and we should all work together,” Smith said. “And if they would have let me know about it, even after the fact, it would have helped me deal with the community concerns about it. He worked at the Piggly Wiggly and was well thought of by people.”
Tammy Spicer, a spokeswoman for ICE, said she could not discuss details of Monroy’s case. But she said it was unrelated to the agency’s enforcement actions across the country last week.
“Really in all of Florida, there has not been any increased activity in enforcement operations,” she said. “This particular individual’s arrest was not tied to a larger enforcement action.”
John F. Kelly, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a news release that the agency has been conducting targeted enforcement actions for many years. He said the operations are consistent with “routine, targeted arrests” carried out by ICE on a daily basis.
“President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation,” he said, “and directed our department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally.”