Democrats still looking for answers on immigration arrests

2017-03-03 12:18
Tim Kaine arrives at the US Capitol for President Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Drew Angerer, AFP)

Tim Kaine arrives at the US Capitol for President Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Drew Angerer, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Alexandria - Nearly a month after at least two people were arrested by immigration officers outside a northern Virginia church, Democratic lawmakers from across the country say they are still seeking answers about what happened.

The February 8 arrests across the street from the Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, which doubles as a soup kitchen and cold weather shelter, struck a nerve because critics say it targets vulnerable immigrants who need emergency services. They say it also violates Immigration and Customs Enforcement's own policy prohibiting enforcement actions at sensitive locations such as churches, schools and hospitals.

At a news conference on Thursday, critics including Virginia senator and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said the Trump administration's reassurances that it continues to follow the policy protecting sensitive locations ring hollow in light of the arrests at Rising Hope.

"We are hearing some words, but the words aren't matching up with what people are seeing," Kaine said.

Nicholas Marritz, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Justice Centre, said efforts to learn the identities of those arrested or other details about the enforcement action were rebuffed when he and other activists went to ICE regional offices seeking answers.

"They told us, 'We're not going to give you their names, we're not going to meet with you, and please leave'," Marritz said.

ICE officials have said their policies were followed in the Alexandria arrests, which occurred in a shopping centre across the street from the church. An ICE official says only two people were arrested, though witnesses say they saw as many as six people taken away.

'Targeted immigration enforcement'

In a statement on Thursday, ICE said it "conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy".

"ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately," the statement said. "The ICE sensitive locations policy ... provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided. ... DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilise services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation."

Linda Sanchez, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said "rogue agents are getting cute with the rules" because they feel emboldened to do so by President Donald Trump's harsh rhetoric against immigrants. She also said the administration's recent executive order greatly expands who can be considered a criminal alien and thus a top priority for arrest and deportation.

Democrat Don Beyer, whose district includes the church, decried "scorched-earth tactics" of the Trump administration.

"Make no mistake about what our new President Trump is up to," Beyer said. "The new policies of the Trump administration exist to incite fear."

The church's pastor, Keary Kincannon, said there was a slight drop-off in people seeking services after the arrests. But he said the drop-off was minimal because the services they are seeking, including food and shelter, are so critical that people are willing to take the risk.

The church provides more than 20 beds a night to people during cold-weather months, and the soup kitchen provides 180 meals a week, Kincannon said.

Still, he said the fear is palpable. He related the story of a Hispanic woman and US citizen who has resorted to carrying her birth certificate with her.

"She is afraid of being picked up and arrested," he said.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  migrants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:

 
 

You won't want to miss...

Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Hip Cape Town bars to discover this summer
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.