Activists question surge in ICE raids
By Khalil AlHajal
Friday, 10.31.2008, 08:23pm
After a rash of immigration detainments on Sept. 23 and 24, a number
of family members and community organizations have complained that
the sudden surge of arrests has served to intimidate and preoccupy
immigrant communities just before the election, making people less
likely to vote.
The arrests were made during scheduled appointments with officials
and included immigrants who had been granted stays of deportation.
Complaints were also raised about multiple strip searches the
detainees were subjected to. Detainees were stripped down as a group,
intensely embarrassing and offending Arab American detainees, to
whom, for cultural reasons, being naked in front of others is
"It feels bad. Really bad," said Ayda Merhi, whose husband Medien
Merhi was detained when he reported for a regular appointment with
He was sent to Dickerson Jail in Hamtramck and then transferred to
St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron.
Ayda Merhi has been in the U.S. for 23 years, Medien Merhi for 15.
"It appeared to be a sweep," said Detroit immigration attorney Tamara
She said that on Sept. 23, she walked into the office where
immigrants with pending deportation cases go to regularly report and
found the room empty.
"It was eerie," she said.
She said she usually advises her clients facing deportation that
there is always a one percent chance of being arrested during the
regular reports to immigration authorities.
"I had to explain to him that this was that one percent," she said
about one of her clients.
She said sudden sweeps may have to do with space in county jails
being available and paid for at certain times, or that perhaps
someone at Immigration and Customs Enforcement simply throws a dart
at a calendar to decide when to execute a surge of arrests.
"You could come up with all kinds of theories," she said.
"It appears unfair because its unusual," she said.
But if there was more funding to finance arrests, "there would
probably be more people detained," she said.
"It's not illegal... All the laws are there, they just don't have all
Vincent Clausen, of ICE, said he forwarded inquiries for explanation
of such sweeps to the agency's public affairs representatives.
No response was given as of press time Thursday.
Ayda Merhi said her husband was strip searched with a group of about
50 men twice in the first week of his detainment.
Dickerson Jail is run by Wayne County.
Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans' Chief of Staff Darryl Fordham said
the department is contracted by ICE to house detainees.
He said the detainees are kept separate from the jail's general
population, but that everyone entering the jail is subject to a strip
search and that random sanitation inspections, in which officers
thoroughly search detainees and their belongings for contraband, are
"Anyone who comes into Wayne County jails are strip searched," he
said. "We go through everything."
The searches are performed in groups for efficiency of time, but
Fordham said that if individuals request to be searched separately,
they are granted a more private search.
"If someone says they prefer not to be in the group... if at any time
they say they're not comfortable... they can make the request and
they'll be separate," he said.
He said the detainees are not directly notified of that right, but
that rules and regulations of the jail are posted on signs where the
detainees are housed.
Other complaints were made about St. Clair County Jail, where family
members of detainees said there is thick glass between inmates and
visitors, with no holes or telephones for them to communicate
"He can't hear me from the window and I can't hear him," said Ayda
Merhi about an attempt to visit her husband. I went for nothing."
Some also said they were prevented from giving detainees copies of
St. Clair County Administrator Shaun Groden said in an email message
that the glass divide in the visiting area of the jail has design
features that allow for sound to pass through.
"No one has complained previously that they cannot hear," he
said. "Phones for one-on-one communication are not required. If an
inmate needs to speak long distance to relatives or an attorney,
telephones are provided on a 24-hour basis. Inmates are not prevented
from communicating with relatives or attorneys in any fashion.
He also said "no religious books are denied to any demonination."
Regional Director of the American-Arab Anti-Disrimination Committee
Imad Hamad said he is confused, if all of the reported detention
practices are common procedure, as to why the complaints have only
recently come up in significant numbers.
"Why have we never heard about this until now? Why now?" he said.
Victor Fernandez reports on an escalation in arrests of immigrants
Massive ICE raids in California
October 6, 2008
SOME 1,157 people in California have been arrested by Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in just three weeks.
In an announcement on September 29, ICE credited this raid to a surge
in the activity of its "fugitive response teams"--squads of agents
with the specific task of deporting undocumented immigrants who have
returned to the country after being deported or who have ignored
their deportation orders.
The enormous sweep, which ended September 27, produced 436 arrests in
the San Francisco area, 420 in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the
San Diego area. ICE made a point to state that 346 of the people
arrested had prior criminal convictions. Of the 1,157 arrested, only
595 had outstanding deportation orders.
The recent sweeps revealed a new strategy on the part of ICE agents.
Along with the massive workplace raids that have taken place
recently, which strike fear into undocumented workers and are used
many times to shield union-busting by employers, ICE is increasingly
conducting deportations in the ones and twos. This makes it harder
for immigrant rights activists to respond to every raid and
deportation, since there are literally hundreds spread out over a
ICE is now claiming that it is chasing criminals and gang members to
try to shield itself from any criticism that it is ripping apart
families and destroying the lives of hardworking migrants. This is
supposed to be the focus of fugitive response squads, which are meant
to arrest people who avoided their deportation or have come back into
the country illegally.
Most immigrants are forced to break certain laws--for example, using
false papers or avoiding deportation orders--in order to stay in this
country and work to feed their families. The targeting of workers for
these violations says volumes about the unjust immigration laws that
seek to criminalize immigrants by denying them the same rights as
ICE officials highlighted the arrests it made of undocumented
immigrants with previous criminal records, including the victimless
crime of drug possession. But they didn't explain how a deportation
is punishment for somebody who has already paid their debt to society.
Immigrant rights activists in Los Angeles are keenly aware of how ICE
uses the cover of police to carry out their dirty deeds. It is a well-
known fact among activists that ICE and the LAPD come into a
community "looking for a criminal," and many times do not find that
person. However, they conveniently find groups of undocumented people
to round up at the same time.
Even though the police aren't supposed to do the work of immigration
agents, this de facto cooperation goes on every day.
Activists in the immigrant rights movement should stand up against
the raids and call out any excuses ICE makes for deporting anyone in
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