By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal
March 8, 2007
Federal immigration officers were back in San Rafael and Novato Wednesday to make another round of arrests.
San Rafael police received a call from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the largest investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security, about 5 a.m. indicating they would be making additional arrests, said San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher.
On Tuesday, ICE agents swept into San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood at about 5 a.m. and arrested an unspecified number of people – rousting some from their homes.
Novato police Chief Joseph Kreins said his department was tipped by ICE that they would be serving arrest warrants in Novato on Wednesday.
An ICE truck was spotted outside the Marin Square shopping center in the Canal between 10:30 and 11 a.m., said Tom Wilson, director of Canal Alliance.
Federal authorities told San Rafael police on Tuesday they had warrants to arrest 30 illegal immigrants. ICE also arrests other illegal immigrants it identifies in such raids.
"We’re not releasing daily arrest statistics," said Lori Haley, an ICE spokeswoman. "It is an ongoing initiative."
The arrests are part of Operation Return to Sender – an initiative launched by the Department of Homeland Security in June 2006 to identify and arrest immigrants who have been ordered deported. Since the operation began, ICE has made more than 18,000 arrests nationwide. Two of ICE’s 52 national teams are based in the Bay Area.
Wilson expressed outrage at the way in which some Marin arrests have been made. In some cases, ICE agents have arrested whomever is residing at the address of an individual they are seeking, Wilson said. He said ICE agents have sometimes failed to provide for the care of children when their parents were arrested.
Kevin Reyes, a 7-year-old San Rafael resident who was swept up in an ICE raid Tuesday, was later released.
Rick Oltman of Novato, a longtime advocate of tighter controls on immigration, said he was glad to see some enforcement of immigration laws but added, "It would be better if they spent their time on the employers. They’re the ones that are attracting people."
Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, whose district includes San Rafael’s predominantly Latino neighborhood, and Supervisor Judy Arnold, whose district encompasses Novato, were bombarded by calls and e-mails from concerned constituents.
Panic caused by the arrests caused many children in the San Rafael school system to miss school, which could pose an economic impact on San Rafael city schools, Kinsey said. He said he was working with San Rafael Mayor Al Boro to arrange a meeting with ICE officials to express concerns.
"I’m distressed by the reckless manner in which the federal government is pursuing its legitimate law enforcement duties," Kinsey said. "The collateral damage is showing up everywhere."
Supervisor Arnold said she has asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein to find out "what protocol if any there is for these raids."
Haley, the ICE spokeswoman, said people can obtain information regarding family members who have been taken into custody by calling 844-5526. Haley said the information is provided in written form at arrest sites.
But Kinsey said he has been getting a different story from constituents.
"We’re hearing no information is being left at the houses," Kinsey said. And if family members lacking adequate documentation go to the Santa Clara facility where the ICE prisoners are taken, those family members are taken into custody, he said.
On Wednesday, Ron Rentner and Pamela Griffith-Pond, pastors at the All Saints Lutheran Church in Novato, distributed brochures outlining immigrants’ legal rights to restaurants and markets frequented by the Latino community in Novato.
"There are a number of people who are interested in making sure that people at least know their rights," Rentner said.
The handouts explain that people do not have to let immigration agents or police officers into their homes unless they have a search warrant, and anyone who is arrested may refuse to answer questions until they’ve had a chance to talk to a lawyer.
"But when you’re cornered and there is somebody big and powerful yelling at you, it’s very, very difficult to maintain your right to remain silent," said Margo Dunlap, executive director of the International Institute of San Francisco, which serves immigrant and refugee families.
Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at [email protected]