In the first sweep through downtown Santa Ana since the City Council called on President Reagan to halt the actions last November, Immigration and Naturalization Service agents arrested 85 people Wednesday, including an El Salvadoran youth.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., 10 agents from the San Clemente checkpoint struck at locations in the city near the downtown Orange County Transit District terminal. INS spokesman Wayne Kirkpatrick said most of the arrests were made at the terminal and people were arrested "coming off the buses perhaps, or loitering, or simply being productive in downtown Santa Ana."
Business owners on 4th Street, however, said those arrested also were picked up as they left restaurants, an insurance company, a travel agency and even as they conducted business.
Some Women Included
Kirkpatrick said mostly men, but some women, were taken into custody, all of them Mexican nationals except a 16-year-old youth from El Salvador.
Seventy-eight of those picked up chose to be deported by bus back to Mexico, Kirkpatrick said. Three people remained in custody pending deportation hearings.
Three others presented evidence that they would qualify for legalization under a new law that allows undocumented residents to become citizens if they can prove residency since Jan. 1, 1982, or earlier. Those three were issued special forms that grant them temporary residency and then released, Kirkpatrick said.
The Salvadoran teen-ager will remain at the INS's San Ysidro holding facility for juveniles because Mexico will not accept non-Mexicans, and he first must be granted the opportunity to speak with a representative of his country, Kirkpatrick said.
Not With Parents
He was not in the custody of parents or a legal guardian at the time of his arrest, Kirkpatrick said.
Since January, Kirkpatrick said, sweeps have been a "normal, ongoing procedure," and INS has picked up an average of 85 to 100 people every day in Orange County. "Before that it was now and then," he said. Santa Ana Mayor Dan Young, who said he believes that the city never received any response from the President, said the letter generally stated that the sweeps have a great impact on the community without actually stemming the tide of immigration. "I guess what's confusing to me is why they're conducting sweeps with this new law going into effect," Young said.
Alan Kunski, a furniture store owner who has organized a coalition of downtown business proprietors who oppose INS raids, agreed. Kunski, who has debated INS Western Regional Commissioner Harold Ezell on a radio show regarding downtown sweeps, said the fear generated costs the businesses their customers and doesn't solve immigration problems.
"The mood of the public in this area right now is anti-INS and pro-people as far as 'Hey, if the government is going to give them a chance to be citizens let's not bash them,' " Kunski said Wednesday,
INS had not conducted sweeps in Santa Ana since last October, when 184 people were picked up in two days. At the time, downtown businessmen, with the support of Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), called for a moratorium, saying the sweeps were disrupting lives and affecting business. At the time Dornan called the sweeps counterproductive because of the new law, saying nothing is accomplished by "picking up people who are on the paper path to citizenship."
Ezell said he is undeterred by such protests. "It's interesting that some small group of business people think that they can get a special dispensation for immigration enforcement but that's not the way it works," he said.
Immigrant activist Nativo Lopez passed out leaflets to those detained Wednesday informing them what their rights are when picked up by INS. He said he was told at first that he would be arrested for interfering with the agents but then was allowed to continue handing out the information.
"The irony of all this is the INS is going around holding press conferences talking about creating a climate of confidence with the INS. Then they conduct these kinds of raids that further deteriorate that confidence," Lopez said.