DETROIT — U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) National Assistant Secretary John Morton attended a meeting with local community leaders in April to discuss reported incidents of illegal activity by the agency.
Morton promised a complete investigation into the complaints within 30 days. According to Alliance for Immigrants Rights (AIR) the community still has not heard back from him. The incidents include racial profiling, warrantless raids of homes, businesses, schools, churches, community centers, mosques, health clinics and physical and verbal abuse by ICE agents.
Speaking at a forum on June 30 where a new joint campaign against racial profiling was announced, Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) Co-founder, Laura Sanders, said WICIR sent several formal letters regarding the incidents to Detroit Field Office Director, Rebecca Adducci, who has not responded in three years.
The forum organized by AIR and held at Hope of Detroit Academy, which was raided by ICE agents on Mar. 31, followed a rally outside the elementary school. Demonstrators demanded accountability for the violations and a response to the promised investigation.
"Today, we're joining our friends in the Muslim community and demanding an end to racial profiling and harassment by Border Patrol," said Ryan Bates, Director of AIR. "No one should suffer the indignity of being interrogated about their religion at the border. No one should be stopped on the streets of Detroit to have their papers checked just because of the color of their skin. This pattern of abuse is unacceptable, and needs to be addressed at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security."
Also speaking at the rally were Chris Michalakis, on behalf of the Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO, Ron Scott, from the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality and Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations Michigan.
U.S. Rep Hanson Clarke (D-Detroit) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) joined a panel of experts at the forum. Clarke said he's the son of an undocumented immigrant, and proud to say it. Following the forum he told the press his father was more than likely undocumented when he immigrated to the U.S.
"There are two things that are important about this country. Number one, that we follow laws here and people must obey the laws. We just can't do whatever we want to in this country…That applies to you. And that applies to Homeland Security," Clarke said.
ICE issued a statement admitting it violated its own policies when it raided the Academy.
"DHS has violated its own rules," Conyers said. "So the question before us this evening in my judgment is what are they doing? What have they done, and what will they promise and commit to do in the future?"
Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) also served as a panel guest saying ACCESS would work on getting 22 other Arab American community organizations involved in addressing the abuses.
He said ACCESS will offer AIR the resources it needs to continue its fight, and that Arab Americans and Latinos were in the campaign together. "This not a one time event. This is a campaign, and we're going to drive this campaign until the end," Jaber said. "We are one community… Want to know what is illegal? Profiling is illegal. Harassing innocent communities is illegal."
The Academy's principal, Ali Abdel, said the day of the raid one parent was handcuffed and sent to jail, and up to seven parents were hiding inside the building afraid of being detained, while others tried to hide at a local church that was closed.
"It was ghost town for a few weeks. Parents didn't want to bring their children to school. They didn't want to pick them up or drop them off. Kids couldn't focus on their work with a lot of turmoil going on at home," Abdel said.
Also attending the forum was Lidia Reyes, Director of Latino Family Services, and Michael Steinberg, Legal Director of the Michigan ACLU and U.S. Attorney for Eastern Michigan Barbara McQuade.
Surprisingly, many of the incidents in and around southeast Detroit occurred at human service agencies doing nothing more than teaching English classes or running a food pantry.
The following are only a few examples provided by AIR of incidents that involve abuse by federal agents:
October 28, 2010, Detroit: CBP Stops Latino Man With No Probable Cause, Subsequently Denied Medication While in Detention.
A Border Patrol Officer stopped Ramon Morales, on Fort Street, claiming he looked suspicious. Mr. Morales had recently received a kidney transplant, and was holding his side in pain. CBP claimed this looked like Mr. Morales was concealing a weapon. No weapon was ever found. While in detention overnight at Dearborn City Jail, night shift officers denied Mr. Morales his kidney medication. The water available in his cell was so full of contamination, that Mr. Morales needed to let the dirt drift to the bottom of his cup before drinking it.
May 5th, 2011, Detroit: Border Patrol Office of Field Operations Stationed Outside Hispanic Agency
Gabriella Alcazar identified and recorded a Border Patrol Office of Field Operations vehicle parked outside of her office, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. The vehicle was stationed outside the agency for approximately 10 minutes. The staff has noticed the same sort of vehicle before, usually parked around the time English classes get out, but had not begun to document their sightings. The presence of CBP/OFO at the agency instills fear in clients, and DHDC has noticed a significant decline in their social service programs and language classes as a result.
June 11, 2011, Detroit: CBP Singles Out Latino Fisherman for ID Check
On the afternoon of June 11th Guillermo Arueyes, and his brother Francisco Arueyes, both U.S. citizens, were fishing in the Detroit River near Jefferson and Livernois. There was a group of about 10 other people fishing at the same location. Border Patrol arrived on the scene and proceeded directly to question Guillermo and Francisco regarding their immigration status. They also questioned another individual, according to Arueyes, who was Asian. The officers ignored the rest of the group, who appeared African-American and Caucasian.
May 10th, 2011, River Rouge: CBP Rounds Up Two Landscaping Workers
A CBP officer approached Cirilo Chavez Sosa and Aaron Guzman Mendoza to ask for their documents while they worked on a landscaping job in Grosse Isle. Border Patrol had no reason to suspect these men of any criminal act.