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ICE agents arrive at San Francisco nonprofit, rattling staff; agents were seeking sex offender nearby

The agents arrived about 9:20 a.m. at the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in San Francisco.
(Courtesy of Good Samaritan Family Resource Center)

ICE agents arrived Thursday morning at a San Francisco nonprofit serving mostly low-income Latino immigrant families, rattling staffers and stoking fears about illegal immigration crackdowns under President Trump.

But though agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents did descend on the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in the Mission District, immigration officials said it was not a raid but a targeted effort to find a convicted sex offender wanted for deportation.

The agents — many with “ICE” in large letters on the back of their clothes — arrived about 9:20 a.m. at the center and lingered outside the building, according to Jaime Aragon, the organization’s service coordination manager. After a few minutes, they entered and asked Aragon about people who lived there.

“I told them this is a family resource center. No one lives here — I can’t help them,” said Aragon, who directed the agents to a housing complex next door. The officer “thanked me and left.”

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Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, said that after learning the suspect’s last address was actually next door, the agents promptly walked out. At the housing complex, the agents didn’t find the man, whose identity was not released, and left the area without making an arrest, Kice said.

The arrival of ICE was first reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

ICE described the action by agents as routine — part of typical operations to track down specific individuals in the country illegally who pose a threat to public safety or national security.

“ICE deportation officers and special agents conduct operations every day in locations around the country,” Kice said in a statement.

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An ICE policy memorandum from 2011 calls on officers to avoid conducting actions at “sensitive locations,” including schools, hospitals, churches and public demonstrations, and to use extra caution at organizations that help children and pregnant women.

To Aragon, who has worked at the nonprofit for seven years, the presence of federal immigration agents put him on edge.

“Nothing like this ever happened close to home. It was very jarring,” Aragon said. “It took us by surprise. We know what to do and we are equipped to respond in an appropriate way, but it was still very disturbing.”

The brief presence of ICE agents came just a day after Trump signed two executive orders designed to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico, add lockups for detaining immigrants who cross the border illegally, enhance enforcement powers for border agents and strip federal funding to cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement.

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According to a draft document reviewed by The Times, under the new order, the federal government would threaten to withhold funds from so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration officials. San Francisco, like Los Angeles, is a sanctuary city, a broad policy aimed at welcoming those here illegally.

Staffers at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center hoped that the brief visit by ICE agents does not frighten away those who utilize their services: primarily low-income immigrant families. The organization provides child care, English classes, parenting groups and after-school programs.

Aragon said it was a small relief that the federal agents came at 9:20 a.m. The group has a large wave of English as a second language students who arrive at 9 a.m., usually with their children in tow.

“Everyone missed these officers by a hair,” he said.

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matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno


UPDATES:

7:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details on the suspect.

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This article was first published at 6:35 p.m.


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