Los Angeles Daily News
By Elizabeth Chau, Alejandra Molina, and Edward Yee
February 20, 2018
Southern California activists are responding to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration actions last week by fanning out to businesses targeted by the agency and responding to requests by family members and friends to check on their loved ones detained by the agency.
The Los Angeles Raids Rapid Response Network is among those organizing a response to ICE’s operation last week, which resulted in 122 notices being issued to businesses and more than 200 people arrested.
The network, which is chaired by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, issued a statement Tuesday saying it’s sending out “legal observers, organizers, and immigrant rights advocates” to businesses over the next few days that received notices from ICE to produce employee records.
Members of that network also went to see people who were detained at the Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino County.
The network and other activists on Tuesday called the operation by ICE last week a form of retaliation prompted by recent policies adopted by local officials aimed at protecting immigrants.
“Because California and Los Angeles are determined to create safe communities for all and not serve as an arm of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), ICE blatantly and arrogantly let it be known the agency will treat our communities without regard to the rule of law,” the network’s statement said.
Southern California-area activists said they believe ICE officials are returning to the businesses this week to obtain the records they requested last week.
ICE spokeswoman Lori K. Haley said that the notices last week alert businesses they plan to “audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law.”
Employers must show ICE officials their I-9 forms “within three business days, after which ICE will conduct an inspection for compliance,” Haley said.
I-9 forms are used to verify employees’ identities and whether they are authorized to work.
“If employers are not in compliance with the law, an I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution, if they are knowingly violating the law,” Haley said.
Among those responding as part of the Los Angeles Raid Rapid Response Network is Guillermo Torres, an organizer with Clergy Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), a group of faith-based organizations.
Torres said he visited detainees at the detention center Tuesday morning. He said the network received two or three alerts about people who were detained in the recent operation and “alerts about asylum seekers” being held at the detention center.
“Sometimes the families are in the dark,” he said. “When they connect with a community organization or immigration attorney, they are able to connect with (detainees) with their families. We try to give them guidance, such as about what might happen or what might not happen. Make sure to communicate with their loved ones.”
Torres said the network knows of roughly five businesses that were served notices. The network is hoping to respond by offering legal help and monitoring.
Torres said that he represents a group of “more than 600 interfaith leaders” that is “very disappointed that the Department of Homeland Security has decided to retaliate against our communities, and we just want to make them aware we’re going to be here to try to protect our community.”
ICE officials did not provide details about the people detained and the individual businesses issued notices last week. Haley said the agency issued notices to businesses from various industries, including “staffing, service industry, hospitality, transportation … ”
The operation spanned across all seven Southern California counties covered by ICE’s local office, which are Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, Haley said. The operation also took place in four counties in southern Nevada.
Officials with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said they are working to obtain more information about how Angelenos were affected by last week’s ICE operation.
“Mayor Garcetti believes ICE should focus on removing dangerous criminals and people who pose a threat to our national security — not separating law-abiding, hardworking families that have built lives in our communities,” Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell, who advises Garcetti on public safety and homeland security matters, said.
“Our office reached out to ICE for additional information on this operation and we’re waiting to hear back. We want open lines of dialogue with everyone affected by these activities, and we’ll continue pushing for better communication from ICE on any operations in the city,” he said.
There are several other activist groups and rapid response networks working to obtain information and keeping track of the impact of last week’s actions.
El Monte residents became aware of an ICE I-9 inspection at Northgate González Market, 3828 Peck Road, on Wednesday when a picture of an employee notice form was posted by “El Monte Memes” on Facebook and Twitter.
Diego Anguiano, the El Monte resident who operates the account, said an employee sent him the photo to share on social media.
Volunteers for the San Gabriel Valley Immigrant Youth Coalition passed out immigrant “know your rights” informational materials at the market Monday and Tuesday afternoon, said Marcela Hernandez, deportation defense coordinator for the coalition.
Hernandez said the flyers and pamphlets distributed include information about what business owners, employees and shoppers need to know should they be confronted by ICE agents.
Locals are also planning to be at the Northgate market throughout Wednesday to observe the situation in case ICE agents go beyond verifying the I-9 forms and instead begin asking workers or customers about their immigration status, Hernandez said.
“There are more rapid response resources available in Los Angeles than in the San Gabriel Valley, so it’s important that we’re here so people know they have resources and ways to get help if they’re detained,” Hernandez said.
While Hernandez said the I-9 inspections are fairly innocuous on their own, ICE’s presence in the community puts residents on edge.
“It’s a mental and emotional attack on the community when they hear about ICE being nearby,” Hernandez said.
In the Inland area, about four to five businesses in Cathedral City, which was officially designated a sanctuary city in May 2017, were known to have been served with I-9 notifications, said Jennaya Dunlap with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice.
Dunlap called the move an “intimidation tactic” as the Coachella Valley businesses are located in the same vicinity.
One business targeted by ICE is a car wash that is now left without many of its employees, Dunlap said.
Dunlap said most of the estimated 20 employees resigned when the manager of the car wash told the staff that ICE would be checking their immigration status.
The owner of the car wash was not present when ICE delivered the notice.
The car wash and the other Cathedral City businesses received the notices on Monday, Feb. 12 and were told to have the documentation ready by that Thursday.
ICE officials said the operation last week was not something that was out of the ordinary.
“Federal law established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all individuals they hire,” Haley said. “ICE is the federal agency responsible for enforcing these laws, which were set up to protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, and to eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce. ICE’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices.”
Some said they support the aims of ICE’s operation last week, and believe policies limiting the agency from entering jails was what prompted the operation being conducted at businesses and in other parts of the community.
“The law is very clear,” Don Rosenberg of Los Angeles, president of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime, said. “Anybody who is here illegally is subject to deportation, regardless of what they have done.”
“To say (ICE) is abusing their power because they’re arresting people that haven’t done anything wrong is ludicrous,” he said. “They have done something wrong. They’re here illegally.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com
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