Massive ICE sweep terrorizes Arizona communities following state passage of anti-immigrant profiling law

(Oakland, CA) More than 800 federal, state and local agents descended April 15 on four Arizona communities - Nogales, Rio Rico, Tucson and Phoenix -- in one of the largest dragnet immigration enforcement operations conducted by the Obama Administration. Isabel Garcia of the Tucson-based Coalición de Derechos Humanos said, "Instead of bringing in the Department of Justice to investigate the immigration abuses and uphold our rights, the Obama Administration sics the ICE police on our communities." (Full Press release available at

The sweep, described by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as "targeting human smuggling networks," sent shockwaves across the Grand Canyon State, paralyzing residents with fear and panic.

ICE's massive raid bolstered the anti-immigrant climate that rules the state. It came on the heels of the passage of SB1070 in the Arizona legislature; the bill requires local law enforcement officers who have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the state without documents to determine that person's immigration status. Arizona police will be able to subject any person to an immigration status check, even without that person having possibly violated any laws. The bill also allows citizens to sue a city, town, or county if they believe a law enforcement agency is failing to enforce this law. The governor of Arizona is expected to sign the drastic measure that would exacerbate racial profiling.

Arizona lawmakers, county and local police and other public officials and vigilante hate groups have been subjecting migrants and communities of color to a state of siege and terror for several years as a result of extreme measures aimed at curtailing migration. Human rights groups have countered these attacks and have demanded federal investigations over civil rights violations.

The latest ICE sweep led to the arrest of 47 people named in criminal indictments, including 17 individuals put under administrative arrest during the ICE mayhem.

Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos described ICE's chaos, "There was a massive show of force, with helicopters, dozens of agents, police vehicles, and weapons, assaulting our community in a fashion never seen before." She continued, "This raid marks a new low in the Obama Administration's lack of accountability,"

"The enforcement operations yesterday in Arizona were explained by ICE as a crackdown against the leaders of the shuttle-service industry transporting undocumented immigrants. They said this was to address the 'root of the problem.' However, entire communities were terrified by the war-type operations they suffered in their neighborhoods," said Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee. "If the Administration is serious about getting to the root of the immigration dilemma, Obama should change U.S. trade policies."
Community to Obama: Stop Raids, Investigate Abuses

Derechos Humanos and others are calling on the Obama Administration to suspend all ICE immigration operations and immigration-police collaboration and to investigate the abuses. Local authorities in Maricopa County, emboldened by misguided federal immigration powers, have increasingly come under fire by human rights groups over civil rights violations, resulting in numerous federal investigations.

A slew of Arizona state laws have criminalized immigrants and gutted the civil rights of Latinos and other communities of color - and anyone who passes as "immigrant." The laws complement federal border control strategies that forcibly funnel migrants through Arizona's most desolate and dangerous regions in order to cross into the U.S. As a result, U.S. border control is responsible every year for the death or disappearance of hundreds of migrants in the deserts and mountains of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Ironically, the latest raid took place within days of a key deadline for the return of Census forms; the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) and over 200 groups across the country had urged Obama and the Department of Homeland Security to suspend such enforcement actions to support greater immigrant participation in Census 2010.

The human rights groups are also urging the President to actively support not just any comprehensive immigration reform, but one driven by human rights, not enforcement.

A few weeks ago, an immigration framework led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and supported by the White House, promised a "tough but fair" immigration overhaul.

"Sadly the immigration framework that policy makers have proposed in Washington offers more of the same failed policies that undermine civil rights, separate families and terrorize communities", said Ramirez. "Arizona cannot become a template for immigration reform. The President has the power to end the human rights nightmare that has haunted immigrant communities for over a decade. President Obama must end the raids now."

"President Obama should be concerned with the human rights consequences of these 'tough and fair' policies," said Catherine Tactaquin, NNIRR Executive Director. "What we need in immigration reform and legalization are full constitutional rights and protections for all persons, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. We can't be promising to bring people out of the shadows when enforcement policies are striking fear in communities and separating families. President Obama should be investigating the abuses, not adding to them."

Friday, April 16, 2010

* Catherine Tactaquin, (510) 465-1984 ext. 302,, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, (NNIRR)
* Isabel García (520) 891-6169 and Kat Rodriguez, (520) 770-1371,, Coalición de Derechos Humanos (CDH)
* Christian Ramirez, (619) 885-1289,, Project Voice- American Friends Service Committee (PV-AFSC)

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

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