Sunday, June 12, 2011

Detroit rally alleges harassment by immigration agents (Detroit Free Press)

Detroit rally alleges harassment by immigration agents
5:29 PM, Jun. 11, 2011

About 40 people rallied in southwest Detroit today in protest of what they say is a rise in racial profiling and harassment on the part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

The rally at Clark Park was organized by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform Michigan. Some participants flashed signs to drivers at the intersection of Vernor and Scotten that said: “Stop Racial Profiling,” “Stop the Abuse” and other pleas.

A speaker at the rally, Lidia Reyes-Flores, CEO of Latino Family Services, said there have been six or seven incidents of people harassed as they were entering or leaving her agency within the past two months.

She said ICE agents tried to block her inside her car April 27 as she was trying to investigate what was happening to Clemente Ramirez, a volunteer who had been doing remodeling for the agency.

The agents asked Ramirez, who had been in the country for 15 years and spoke English, for identification as he was waiting for her, Reyes-Flores said. His driver’s license was expired, and he was deported last month because he was not a U.S. citizen, she said.

“That’s profiling,” Reyes-Flores said. “Just because we’re Mexican doesn’t make us illegal.”

Harold Ort, an ICE spokesman, said in a statement today that “ICE is serious about responding to complaints or allegations of racial profiling.”

Anyone who has experienced a problem with harassment or racial profiling should file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Ort said.

The group at the rally broke into pairs to canvass the neighborhood door-to-door, dispensing information and collecting signatures on petitions they planned to send to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The petitions ask them to do something about harassment and abuse.

“It’s not enough to complain. We have to take action,” said Ryan Bates, the group’s director.

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