Advocates in Detroit are calling for the director of the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to resign after immigration officers stopped two undocumented immigrants on Tuesday while they dropped their children off at school. The agents had followed both men, who had children in their cars, from their homes to the children’s schools.
Jorge Hernandez, one of the men, said ICE officials pulled him over in unmarked cars across the street from his 4-year-old daughter’s school, and his son and wife were in the car when he was stopped. “I was very scared,” said Jorge through an interpreter. “My children were saying, ‘Don’t take my dad away.’” Agents released Hernandez after he was questioned. The second man, Hector Orozco Villa, was detained near the elementary school that his two children attend and is still in custody.
The Alliance for Immigrant Rights and Reform said this incident follows an agreement last year from ICE that officials would be more sensitive when enforcing immigration policies. In 2011, half a dozen ICE agents surrounded another school in the same community, trapping immigrant parents inside.
Now, parents in the area are worried again:
The presence of the agents spread alarm among arriving parents and children in the Latino neighborhood, school officials said. More than 100 people rallied on Wednesday to protest, according to a report in The Detroit News, saying the immigration agency had broken an earlier promise to avoid arrests near schools and other community gathering points.
“It is very alarming to me to have this happen during the rush hour of people taking their children to school,” said Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic state representative who attended the rally. “We are really worried about the impact on these United States citizen children.” Several of Mr. Hernandez’s and Mr. Orozco’s children were born in the United States.
The incident revealed the raw sensitivities in some immigrant communities as federal agents carry out the increasingly complex deportation policy of the Obama administration. Agents have been instructed to focus on capturing illegal immigrants who are convicted criminals or repeat immigration violators, and to avoid detaining those who have committed no serious crimes and have strong family ties to the United States.
Immigration officials said the officers’ actions followed agency policies. “After a thorough review of facts, the arrest of a priority target today in the Detroit metro area adhered to, and was in full compliance of, the stated policies and procedures of the agency,” said ICE Spokesman Ross Feinstein, according to the New York Times. Officials said Orozco was arrested because of a 2008 criminal conviction and had returned to the U.S. after being deported — a felony. While ICE reports Hernandez was not a primary target, he had two convictions for driving with an expired license.
There have been a record number of deportations under President Obama, including tens of thousands of parents whose children are U.S. citizens. Last year, the Obama administration announced a case-by-case review of deportations to ensure that lower-priority deportation cases “are being set aside so we can focus more on our more serious cases of convicted criminals and other high priority categories.”