Thursday, January 7, 2016

ICE agents in Dallas-area raids sought teen in legalization process, attorney says (Dallas Morning News)

ICE agents in Dallas-area raids sought teen in legalization process, attorney says

DIANNE SOLÍS Follow @disolis Email

Published: January 5, 2016 4:37 pm

As raids of Central Americans began across the nation, federal immigration agents attempted to detain a 16-year-old Central American girl in Dallas on Sunday who is in the process of legalization, a prominent Dallas immigration attorney said.

The attempted detention was contrary to the targets detailed by the Department of Homeland Security this week, said Bill Holston, the executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. The unidentified girl is a client of the Dallas nonprofit.

She wasn’t at the residence when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived and asked for her by name, Holston said.

“We hope this is a complete anomaly,” said Holston, whose nonprofit has assisted hundreds of unaccompanied minors from Central America in recent years. “If not, this is really bad for a lot of people. We hope this is just a mistake.”

The girl is in the process of legalizing her status under the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, which covers unaccompanied minors who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. The teen had a removal order, Holston said, but has been released from it.

At a family detention center in Dilley, an hour south of San Antonio, a young mother with a child told legal staff with another nonprofit that she was in a raid in the Dallas area.

Mohammed Abdollahi with the San Antonio-based Raices firm said the young Salvadoran woman with a nine-year-old girl was traumatized by the detention and crying. “The child was really looking forward to going back to school, unlike other kids,” Abdollahi added.

Some immigrants were denied access to the chapel on Monday and a 3-year-old child was denied use of the bathroom, Abdollahi said.

Another woman allegedly asked for a lawyer before signing her deportation papers and was denied the request. Other lawyers and Abdollahi, all inside the Dilley facility, have said that certain women can’t get legal counsel, or when they do meet with them that the meetings are interrupted.

“As a law enforcement agency, ICE should understand what due process violations are, and should immediately cease these abusive tactics it is using in order to secure deportations,” said Jonathan Ryan, RAICES executive director, in a statement.

Monday, Jeh C. Johnson, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, confirmed that 121 persons, including children, had been picked up over the weekend. The proposed plan for the raids on Central American immigrants was first reported by the Washington Post on Dec. 23.

The news sent nonprofits scrambling to develop a hotline and education campaigns that told immigrants to ask for a warrant signed by a judge before any ICE agents were allowed into their residences. It also told them to be wary of agents using deceptive ways to gain access, such as not identifying themselves as ICE agents.

In a statement Monday, the DHS chief detailed the types of persons being picked up for deportation. The focus of the operations were adults and their children who were apprehended after May 1, 2014 crossing the southern border illegally, have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court and “have exhausted appropriate legal remedies and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or were taken or other humanitarian relief under our laws.”

Johnson acknowledged the criticism over the raids, which have involved many mothers with children from two countries with the world’s highest homicide rates.

“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 the deportations do in fact cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities.”

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