ICE Misled Public on Raid Arrests

FOIA shows number nearly three times previously reported

Anti-SB 4 demonstrators, including Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, stage a sit-in at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office in May of 2017.
Anti-SB 4 demonstrators, including Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, stage a sit-in at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office in May of 2017. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

It turns out that when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made its sweep of arrests in February, they picked up far more immigrants and stayed put longer than previously reported.

The arrests, political payback for noncompliance policies Sally Hernandez enacted after taking over as county sheriff, ripped apart families and instigated a wave of panic among undocumented immigrants.

While initial reports indicated that ICE arrested 51 immigrants in the Austin area (of which 28 had no criminal background), a public information request made last year by the Texas Observer’s Gus Bova finally came back to him this week – and shows that ICE had in fact made 132 arrests, nearly three times what was first reported. ICE made those additional 81 arrests on Feb. 11 and 12, 2017, the two days that followed the first round of local raids. The “discrepancy” is attributed to an overlap of the “two-day national operation and a separate four-day regional operation aimed at additional criminal targets.”

Greg Casar, whose northeast District 4 encompasses a large population of immigrants, told the Chronicle that the new figures didn’t particularly surprise him since the Mexican Consulate, who must be alerted when nationals are detained, were reporting higher numbers than ICE at the time of the raids. Moreover, said Casar, ICE has continually shrouded the truth and taken aim at cities that have stood up for immigrant rights. “ICE has been purposely misleading the public,” he said. “They’ve targeted activists for deportation; they hide the number of people that they deport; and have been punishing cities because of their pro-immigrant politics. ICE has fully become part Trump propaganda machine and part secret police.”

ICE’s track record on transparency is weak: While the agency initially denied the arrests were payback for Hernandez’s policy, it was revealed in court that ICE had indeed targeted Travis County because of exactly that. And last October, according to The Intercept, ICE was found to be monitoring elected officials’ social media accounts, including Casar’s. Emails showed ICE scrambling to engineer a narrative that sold the arrests as a way to protect the public. State Rep. and Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said in a statement that he suspects “more non-criminals were swept up” than initially realized. And in a Jan. 26 letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security and ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, slammed the initial ICE figures as “selective and deceptive” and requested detailed information on the raid arrests. While he has not yet received anything substantive in response, DHS and ICE have acknowledged receipt of the request, his office tells us.

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ICE, Sally Hernandez, Greg Casar, Eddie Rodriguez

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