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3/9 San Rafael, CA: Immigration raids handled poorly
Released 12 March 2007  By Marin Independent Journal (CA)

Immigration raids handled poorly

Marin Independent Journal (CA)

THE HEAVYHANDED tactics used by federal immigration agents in Marin this week simply were not appropriate.

Federal officers, armed with 30 arrest warrants and a fleet of green-and-white immigration vans, swept through the Canal area of San Rafael early Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. More arrests were made in Novato.

Federal officers, as part of Operation Return to Sender, used those warrants to arrest illegal immigrants who have been ordered deported. There have been 18,000 such arrests nationwide since June.

The illegal immigrants named on the warrants were arrested in houses and apartments - along with any others suspected of being in this country illegally. In San Rafael, those put in handcuffs and taken away apparently included a 7-year-old boy who is a U.S. citizen.

Local activists have expressed outrage at what they viewed as unacceptably harsh tactics.

They have reason to be angry.

The immigration raids have created a climate of fear in the Canal neighborhood. This is wrong.

San Rafael officials have worked hard over the past several years - including building a new Pickleweed Park Community Center - to earn the trust of the densely populated neighborhood that many immigrants call home.

City leaders are justifiably fearful that these raids, which they had nothing to do with, will make Canal residents wary of all officials, including local police officers.

That will make it harder for cops to control and solve crime and make it easier for Canal residents to be victims.

San Rafael officials, including Mayor Al Boro and Police Chief Matt Odetto, met with residents and activists Wednesday night at the Pickleweed center to reassure them that the city had nothing to do with the raids.

At Bahia Vista Elementary School, where many Canal children attend, 76 students were absent Tuesday, compared with eight to 10 on a typical day. Two students had parents swept up in the raids. The school's principal worried about the palpable sense of fear among the children.

The raids achieved one goal: Illegal immigrants who had been ordered deported were taken into custody. Federal officials, however, have declined to tell the IJ how many arrests were made, saying that daily totals are not being released.

Marin residents deserve to know how many people were detained. Refusing to release such basic information just adds to the cloak of secrecy that has surrounded these sweeps. It is understandable why residents of the Canal and other parts of Marin, even those who are U.S. citizens, are afraid.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who are part of the Department of Homeland Security, say the sweeps are necessary to find people who are here illegally and who have ignored their final deportation orders.

We agree that those who are here illegally and have ignored their final deportation orders should be arrested and face the consequences. That's the law.

We simply don't think it was necessary to deliberately terrorize an entire neighborhood and disrupt the lives of so many Marin families to arrest a small number of people, including a small boy who happens to be an American citizen.

Illegal immigration is a difficult and divisive issue facing this country. These kinds of raids do nothing to create any consensus.

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