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3/8 San Rafael, CA: Fate of detained becomes clearer
Released 12 March 2007  By Richard Halstead - Marin Independent Journal (CA)

Fate of detained becomes clearer

Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal (CA)

Some of the undocumented immigrants arrested in San Rafael and Novato this week may have been deported the same day, a federal immigration official said Thursday.

As federal immigration officers returned to San Rafael for a third consecutive day Thursday, the picture of what happens to the people they arrest became clearer.

Police were notified that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would be making arrests near the downtown area of San Rafael on C Street between 7 and 8 a.m., said police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher.

Novato police Chief Joseph Kreins said he was not contacted by ICE Thursday and knew of no arrests in Novato since Wednesday.

ICE is the largest investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security. The arrests are part of Operation Return to Sender - an ambitious initiative launched by the Department of Homeland Security in June 2006 to identify and arrest undocumented immigrants who have been ordered deported.

ICE officials have declined to say how many people have been arrested in Marin since the organization began its raids on Tuesday. ICE told San Rafael police on Tuesday that it had warrants to arrest 30 undocumented immigrants.

It is difficult to say how many people have been detained because ICE also arrests other undocumented immigrants it identifies in such raids.

Between Oct. 1, 2006, and Jan. 26, ICE arrested 838 undocumented immigrants in Northern and Central California, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said. More than a third of them, 338, were taken into custody in the process of pursuing the other 500, whom a judge had ordered to be deported. Since Operation Return to Sender began, ICE has made more than 18,000 arrests nationwide.

On Thursday, Haley provided some information about what happens to people after they are arrested. All those apprehended initially are taken to ICE's facility at 630 Sansome St. in San Francisco for processing. After that, Haley said, the procedure differs depending on whether a judge has previously ordered the arrested immigrant be deported.

If there is no deportation order pending against the individual, ICE offers the person the choice of signing an agreement that commits them to leaving the country voluntarily. Once they sign the agreement, they are released.

Haley said, "A lot of people take voluntary departure so they can legally (re-enter) the country if they so choose. It's not a deportation."

But immigrant advocates take a different view.

"My understanding is that people are being offered things to sign that are basically giving up all of their rights, period. It could affect their immigration status in the future," said Paul Cohen, executive director of Legal Aid of Marin.

"Many times, they intimidate people into signing these voluntary departure agreements," said Evelyn Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Immigration Rights Coalition in Oakland. "What they're doing is expediting the deportation of immigrants without any due process procedures whatsoever."

If the arrested immigrant has an outstanding deportation order or a criminal conviction, they are typically kept at nearby county jails while they await deportation or further judicial review. Sanchez said anyone arrested should receive a new hearing because their residency status may have changed since the deportation order was issued.

Haley, however, said these people have already received due process. Jails that have been used include the Santa Clara County Jail, the Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin and the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, Haley said. Family members of those arrested can call 844-5526 to find out where their loved ones have been sent. But some immigrants are jailed farther away.

But some immigrants are jailed farther away. Some are sent to an ICE facility in Eloy, Ariz., Sanchez said.

"That is literally the layover before you get deported to your country of origin," Sanchez said.

"People can be sent to any of our facilities if they're being held in custody, anywhere in the country," Haley said. "It depends on bed space."

Haley said ICE has detention facilities in Texas and Arizona where families, including children, are housed together.

"In some cases, if there is a deportation order pending against an immigrant, the person is transported out of the country the same day they are arrested," Haley said.

"Many times, Mexican immigrants are bused to the border," Haley said. "They can also be taken by plane. We have planes that go to various places. It isn't just to the southern border. People are deported back to countries all over the world."

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at

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