Friday, May 23, 2008

Agency cites mistake in raid at UCSD complex (Union-Tribune)

Agency cites mistake in raid at UCSD complex

By Leslie Berestein
May 23, 2008

LA JOLLA – Local officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say agents made a mistake last week when they entered UCSD student housing to search an apartment without first notifying the university.

Last Thursday morning, ICE agents entered the off-campus graduate housing unit of student Jorge Narvaez, 21, a legal U.S. resident. Earlier that morning, agents had carried out a criminal search warrant at the French Gourmet, a Pacific Beach bakery and bistro, and were proceeding on to suspected illegal workers' homes.

While Narvaez works at the bakery, the worker that ICE agents sought didn't live at Narvaez's address.

The agency's policy when entering a university campus, or off-campus university housing, is to alert campus police. However, in this case, agents didn't realize they were in student housing until later, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.

“Had they been aware that morning, we would have provided a courtesy notification by contacting the campus police,” Mack said. “We are conducting an internal review of the situation to clear up any confusion as to how that happened, and to make sure it doesn't happen again.”

Narvaez, a pre-law student born in Mexico who has lived in the United States most of his life, lives in the Mesa Graduate Housing complex near the University of California San Diego. While he is an undergraduate, students with families also live there; Narvaez has a wife and young child.

He said he was home alone last Thursday about 10 a.m. when half a dozen armed agents arrived at his door. After asking if the other person lived there, they began asking him questions, Narvaez said.

“They asked me what's my legal status,” he said. “I had nothing to hide, so I let them in my home. I went outside and they went through all my stuff.”

While Narvaez said he has no complaints as to how the search was carried out, he said agents should have been aware of where they were.

“There are signs in front that say this is university housing,” he said.

UCSD officials learned of the incident as news spread from student to student and eventually to faculty, said Grecia Lima, a senior who helped organize a forum on campus yesterday to discuss stepped-up immigration enforcement. Earlier this week, UCSD campus police spoke with ICE officials about the incident and to “revisit the importance of advising campus police when agents become involved in contacting students on campus,” Stacie Spector, associate vice chancellor for university communications, said in a written statement.

Campus police at San Diego State University cooperated with federal drug-enforcement agents during a five-month undercover operation on campus that resulted in 96 arrests earlier this month. Afterward, university President Stephen Weber said he had not been made aware of the agents' presence until shortly before the operation ended.

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