ICE arrests migrants with permits to be in the country legally


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Two women who had applied and been approved under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that gives them permits to be in the country legally report being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, arrests that landed them in jail, in one case for an entire month.

Maria de Barrera was arrested in Los Angeles when ICE agents came to her house looking for people who no longer lived there.

“I showed the agents my worker’s permit and he said that was not enough and took it away,” said Barrera, 46. She was taken to an immigration detention center and was released several hours later after her lawyer showed ICE agents Barrera had been approved under VAWA.

Elvira Ayon, 26, who also was approved under VAWA, was arrested in Delano, Calif., and later taken to an immigration detention center in Arizona where she spent a month before a lawyer gained her released.

Jorge Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), says such cases are common and calls them proof of the “racial profiling” practiced by ICE.

“They [ICE] don’t go looking for people in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. They go to our communities to conduct raids,” noted Cabrera.

But Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for ICE, denies any racial profiling and says those are isolated cases.

“We detain people from Asia, Europe and all over the world who have violated immigration laws,” she said.

She blames the arrests of migrants legally allowed to be in the country to the fact that ICE agents don’t have remote access to Department of Homeland Security databases to check whether someone has been approved for such permits or other immigration benefits. But she says those cases don’t occur very often.

Kice also says their enforcement actions are specifically targeted to individuals who have avoided detention and have deportation orders, but that sometimes these people have moved and they encounter “collateral violators” in those residences.

“If they can not provide legitimate documentation and identification to show us that they’re in the country legally, we take them to the office to check their status,” said Kice.

-- Paula Diaz/Hoy

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