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3/7 San Rafael, CA: 30 immigrants targeted in Canal neighborhood raid
Released 12 March 2007  By Mark Prado - Marin Independent Journal (CA)
3/7 San Rafael, CA: 30 immigrants targeted in Canal neighborhood raid

30 illegal immigrants targeted in Canal neighborhood raid

Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal (CA)


Photo: Rey Reyes stands at the intersection of Canal and Belvedere streets near the apartment complex where his two brothers, brother-in-law and a 7-year-old nephew were among those taken into custody during a early morning immigration sweep Tuesday in the Canal area of San Rafael. (IJ photo/Jeff Vendsel)

Armed with 30 arrest warrants, federal immigration officers swept into the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael at dawn Tuesday and arrested illegal immigrants.

"They went right into buildings and pulled people from their homes," said Edgar Hernandez of the sweep, which began about 5 a.m. and lasted until 8:30 a.m. "These are just working people, not criminals. Everyone in the Canal is now afraid."

Caught up in the sweep was 7-year-old Kevin Reyes, an American citizen, who was with his family in an apartment on Belvedere Street when officers made the arrests, according to his uncle, Rey Reyes.

"They put handcuffs on him, he is only 7," Reyes said through an interpreter.

At Bahia Vista Elementary School, Principal Juan Rodriguez reported two students were separated from their parents because of the raid and that 77 children did not come to school, likely out of fear. On a typical day, eight to 10 students are absent.

The sweep was part of a stepped-up Immigration and Custom Enforcement program called Operation Return to Sender, which aims to arrest people in the country illegally.

The effort is part of the Department of Homeland Security's plan to secure borders and reduce illegal immigration. Since it was launched in June 2006, Operation Return to Sender has resulted in more than 18,000 arrests nationwide.

The 30 people targeted in the Canal sweep had been ordered deported, immigration officials said. They did not say exactly how many people were arrested.

"These are people who are here illegally," said Lori Haley, immigration spokeswoman. "Our first priority is to find these people who have ignored their final order of deportation."

But if officers incidentally find other illegal immigrants in their sweeps, they are arrested as well. Haley said the program "normally" targets adults, but had no further comment.

The raid in the Canal was one of many that have occurred throughout the country in recent weeks, Haley said.

Haley wouldn't disclose how many officers were involved in the operation, but residents counted as many as 15 green-and-white immigration vans. San Rafael police were not involved.

In the past year, immigration officials have nearly tripled the number of fugitive operations teams from 18 to 52 nationwide, and the number is expected to grow to 75 by the end of the year. There are now two teams in the Bay Area.

"This is an ongoing operation," Haley said.

Word of the sweep spread quickly in the close-knit Canal.

"Everyone is panicked," Hernandez said. "They do not want to be out onto the streets. They do not want to go to their jobs."

Tom Wilson, director of Canal Community Alliance, was disturbed.

"This is horrible and inhumane treatment," he said. "The fact they go in and they take people incidentally is reprehensible at best. They used to pick people from the street and now they go right into people's homes. Some people were taken out in their boxer shorts into the cold without a chance to put clothes on. "

Rodriguez called the raids "an emotional type of terror" that separated families and upset the education process at school.

"How can the kids take tests?" Rodriguez asked. "All they can think right now is 'will my parents be taken?'

"And these children are American citizens."

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