The scariest thing about the federally mandated (and now even more federally mandated) Secure Communities program — and programs like it, which allow local cops, or even park rangers, to call in ICE agents and run your immigration status — is how many cases go unreported due to fear.
All we have are the statistics: About half the undocumented immigrants deported by way of these privacy-infringing partnerships have committed no crime, or only committed a misdemeanor.
One of the most disgusting cases in recent L.A. history…
… was that of 20-year-old Isaura Garcia, who was reported to the feds by LAPD officers after she called 911 on her abusive boyfriend.
Thankfully, in a flurry of media attention, Garcia's deportation has since been suspended, a la Jose Gutierrez. She even stook up to speak about her ordeal at a New York Times-covered rally against racist, unconstitutional ICE procedure on Monday.
Because for every high-profile story like Garcia's, there are 10 harmless fruit vendors hauled off to the station for not having a permit, never to be heard from again.
Below, we've summarized 11 cases of deportation via cross-law-enforcement cooperation in California, as laid out in a new report from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
11. A Guatemalan cerebral-palsy patient living in Marysville, with the developmental capacity of a 9- or 10-year-old, was arrested in May 2009 by sheriff's deputies on suspicion of being publicly intoxicated. The person's attorney thinks the deputies then called ICE. That attorney was eventually able to get the client on his or her mother's U Visa (a temporary Visa for victims of crimes) and avoid deportation proceedings.
10. Three men on their way home from work in July 2010 were trailed by a U.S. Forest Service ranger for 10 minutes before being pulled over, allegedly for “speeding.” (One of the men has a U.S. citizen wife and young daughter.) The ranger told them to exit the vehicle, then asked if they were legal and called ICE to come pick them up. They were released the next morning with notices to appear. The feds later blamed the stop on Operation Trident, a multi-agency effort to catch major marijuana grows. (We've heard that one before.) Their deportation is still pending.
9. A Mexican man was cited for not wearing his seatbelt in a vehicle. He was able to present the officer with a valid U.S. driver's license, but when it was run through the system, the cop saw the man had been deported the year before. So was arrested for the seatbelt offense and “illegal reentry.” As his entire family has citizenship and he was formerly a “lawful permanent resident,” the man was not deported, but sentenced to 27 months in prison for having hopped the border.
8. A Mexican woman who was dropping off her little girl (a U.S. citizen, or, as some might say, an “anchor baby“) at school in September 2009 made a right turn at a red light during no-right-on-red hours. The cop who pulled her over reportedly said, “I know you are illegal,” and kept asking her about her immigration status. She was detained while ICE rushed to the scene. Though the woman was immediately dealt a notice to appear, she is seeking asylum based on the fact that her daughter is developmentally disabled.
7. A driver who blew just over a 0.08 on a breathalyzer in February 2011 was found to have been driving with an expired license. Though he was under the legal alcohol limit once he got to the station, he was charged with a DUI and picked up by ICE from the police station. He has a 13-year-old citizen daughter and no criminal history; deportation is pending.
6. A 19-year-old man hanging out with his friends at a park (his friends were drinking; he was not) was asked for his ID in March 2011. When he wasn't able to produce one, telling the cop he had not yet begun to drive, he was arrested and taken back to the station. That's where ICE picked him up and took him to Arizona, “where it was very difficult for his family to see him.” The young man — who has lived in the U.S. since he was four, graduated high school here and is training to be a barber — has been in ICE custody for two-and-a-half months. He's in removal proceedings.
5. A Mexican man who was ticketed for driving without a license in May 2011 was told he must come into the police station at a later date, to pay a fine and be fingerprinted. But when he arrived, plainclothes ICE agents arrested him and transported him to their own facility. He had previously been deported twice, but has never been convicted of a crime. He's waiting for his notice to appear in court.
4. After making an illegal turn in January 2010, a woman with two U.S. citizen children was arrested for driving without a license, even though local policy prohibits it. When her family brought her passport to the jail, police wouldn't let them deliver it, or even see her. The woman's deportation is pending, but her attorney expects it to be dropped, seeing as she holds a U Visa for domestic violence.
3. In the summer of 2009, a pregnant female DREAM Act candidate was arrested because the light on her license plate had burned out. For that, and her lack of license/car insurance, she was arrested and retrieved from the station by ICE. The young woman, who grew up and went to high school in the U.S., is now in removal proceedings.
2. A man who had previously been deported was arrested for driving without headlights at night, then deported within days of his July 2008 arrest. An attorney was approached by the man's U.S. citizen fiancée after he had already been kicked out of the country.
1. In January 2011, after pulling up to a three-way stop sign where a cop was also stopped, a Mexican man was observed by the officer and followed for several minutes before being pulled over. Though he was told there was a “problem with his brake lights,” the man does not believe this to be true. He was taken the county jail, convicted of driving without a license and put in ICE custody for two weeks. His deportation is pending.
What we've learned: If you're illegal, don't drop your kids off at school. Or get in a car at all, really. Or go to the park. In general, we'd say, it's probably just better to stay at home.