Elder Andy Shelton reports, “Many of our immigrant friends were
terrified earlier this year when their neighborhoods were the
targets of raids by federal agents brandishing semi-automatic
weapons. In many cases our friends were arrested even though they
weren't named in any warrant and they had no criminal record.”
“Raoul” responded to a knock on his door and was startled to see
a team of immigration officials with drawn weapons. They demanded
entrance to his home, but Raoul knew the law.
“May I see your warrant?” he requested.
“Warrant?” said the leader. “We don’t need warrants. We’ve got
Novato, California USA
A documented immigrant reported this incident to one of our
elders in Novato:
I came back from the store, the agents were coming back from the
manager's office, and they saw me. They asked for my driver's
license. Then they called to check to see if my license was legal.
The officer said, "I know you don't have papers." And I said, "I do
They were looking for Raul Diaz and that is not my name. They
said, "Maybe you changed your name." They showed the photo of the
guy they were looking for and he did look a little like me.
Then they said, "Do you want to talk here, go to San Francisco,
or talk in your apartment?'
I said, "Go to San Francisco." I said, "I won't open my
They wanted to come in to see if Raul Diaz was there. They put me
in handcuffs and walked me to my apartment. When I was in front of
the apartment, I told my renters to show their faces in the window
so the agents could see that they were not the person the agents
were looking for. I did not open the door. Then they grabbed me hard
by the arm and took me to the street, forcing me into the car. There
were four agents, two women and two men. One of them spoke Spanish.
It was very demoralizing. They talked on the phone and wrote while I
sat in the car for about 30 minutes. Then they said, "Cooperate and
open the door next time we come." Finally they let me go.
Novato, California USA
A member of the Fijian Community of San Rafael First United
Methodist Church was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) officials. In actual fact, they were not interested in her,
but in her boyfriend. They were waiting outside her house in the
Ignacio Blvd area of Novato. Neomai left the house with her six year
old son. The
ICE agents stopped her on the street and demanded to see her ID and
passport. When they found out that her visa had expired they
handcuffed and arrested her. Her son witnessed all this, and they
left him on the street as they took her away. He went back to the
house where Neomai's boyfriend was.
Neomai has three children in this country, who are legal citizens
through their father. Neomai has never been in trouble with the
police. Neomai is being detained in San Francisco, and is awaiting a
hearing. The bail is likely to be set at $20,000. The whole Fijian
community is now living in fear.
Seattle, Washington USA
One of the differences between immigrants and criminals, is that
criminals are allowed to make a phone call and the law mandates that
they have access to a lawyer. That is not the case with immigrants.
No legal advice is provided, if they can’t obtain their own lawyer
and pay for him/her. Few lawyers are available to immigrants on a
pro-bono basis. In the Seattle detention center, the Washington
Immigrant Rights Project, a non-profit organization created and
manned by lawyers, comes in on a weekly basis to provide legal
advice to those facing court dates, and sometimes will take a case
where the inmate is mistakenly identified as non-documented or has a
chance to fight deportation. They have succeeded in advocating for
release on several occasions.
of the overload on our courts, there is no guarantee as to when an
inmate will go to court. A court date may be set three weeks to
several months away, but the volume of persons being processed
through the courts can change that. Consequently, many are held long
past their original court date. The lack of a specific ending to the
detention sometimes causes inmates to despair and attempt suicide.
An elderly Russian immigrant in a wheelchair managed to partially
hang himself on his bunkbed, and came close to dying before he was
found. Another had managed to cut himself about 40 times, including
the wrist arteries, and was found in a pool of blood barely alive.
It took multiple sutures to save him.
All the detention centers across the U.S. are owned and operated
by independent contractors on a for-profit basis. Inter-cooperation
exists among the centers, and there is no guideline on where an
immigrant must be housed during detention. Thus, inmates can be
moved from Washington to Florida on a moment’s notice. This could
occur because the facility is overflowing and there is space in
Florida. But sometimes it occurs because someone is fighting
deportation in the courts, is likely to win, and some supervisor
decides to put a halt to the possibility by sending the person to
Florida. There is no regulation on this, and no recourse. Because
immigrants are denied the right of habeas corpus, they remain in
custody in Florida, unable to return for court proceedings. The case
is thrown out, due to their non-appearance. In this way, individuals
who might otherwise prove their legal right to live in the USA have
been deported. (Reported to Susan Skoor by a guard who has worked
for two years at the Seattle detention center.)