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.”
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
ICE arrest of Apalachicola man fuels fears