[Pnews] As Immigrants Become More Aware of Their Rights, ICE Steps Up Ruses and Surveillance

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 25 12:39:38 EDT 2019


  As Immigrants Become More Aware of Their Rights, ICE Steps Up Ruses
  and Surveillance

Nausicaa Renner - July 25, 2019

_Amid the Trump_ administration’s threats to accelerate deportations, 
agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have increasingly 
been using deception and surveillance to make targeted arrests, 
according to immigrant rights groups across the country.

ICE’s use of ruses — an old tactic in which agents use false pretenses 
to make arrests, such as posing as local law enforcement or a 
representative of a company — has been more noticeable in the aftermath 
of President Donald Trump’s repeated threats this summer to round up 
immigrants in 10 major U.S. cities. While the mass arrests have yet to 
materialize, ICE’s enforcement operations have continued, and immigrant 
communities are on alert. Reports of ICE sightings and arrests have been 
pouring into immigration advocacy groups.

    “We know that, we have seen ICE lie about who it is when it knocks
    on the door, and we have seen ICE dress up as law enforcement or
    dress down as normal people.”

“ICE’s mission is to apprehend people that it believes shouldn’t be in 
our communities and it will go to great lengths to do that, particularly 
in the face of increased knowledge of rights, and willing to bend what 
we would accept as moral standards of transparency and respect to meet 
those ends,” said Laura Williamson, an organizer with Sanctuary DMV, a 
volunteer group in the Washington, D.C., area that runs a rapid response 
network for ICE raids and an accompaniment program for immigrants 
attending court hearings or immigration appointments. “We know that, we 
have seen ICE lie about who it is when it knocks on the door, and we 
have seen ICE dress up as law enforcement or dress down as normal people.”

Williamson added that the number of so-called collateral arrests — where 
others present are arrested alongside targeted individuals — has also 
ramped up. ICE arrested18 people 
out of a target list of around 2,000 families earlier this month, along 
with 17 others who were not targets of the operation. At the same time, 
a heightened awareness among immigrants of their rights has foiled some 
of the agency’sarrest attempts 

ICE did not respond to multiple requests for comment, which included a 
list of questions.

Under Trump, immigration arrests have steadily risen, expanding their 
targets to anyone in the country without proper documents. In the latest 
indication of the Trump administration’s desire to continue the upward 
trajectory of deportations, the Department of Homeland Security 
<https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-15710.pdf> on 
July 22 its intent to expedite the deportation of immigrants who could 
not prove they’d been in the U.S. continuously for more than two years.

At the same time, ICE has intensified its use of tactics designed to 
create confusion and fear in communities, and the agency’s ruses have 
grown more various and elaborate. Advocates say that ICE agents are more 
boldly impersonating police officers, potential employers, and normal 
citizens. They are increasingly using surveillance tactics, following 
immigrants and detaining them on their way to work, in traffic stops, 
and on the street. And they are upping their presence at courthouses — 
if not to make arrests, then to surveil or visually ID immigrants. In 
New York, for example, from 2016 to 2018, the number of ICE arrests in 
and around courthouses grew by 1,700 percent 

Despite the Trump administration’s repeated rhetoric about public safety 
as the rationale for deporting people en masse, even its most hyped 
operations don’t focus on immigrants with criminal convictions. July’s 
announced push was focused on individuals who had received final orders 
of deportation. That category certainly does not preclude people with 
criminal records, but it also includes many who may not have broken any 
laws besides ignoring that order — encouraging the perception that all 
undocumented people are criminals, simply by being here.

ICE’s methods are designed not simply to arrest and deport, but to 
confuse and terrorize the communities it enters. ICE agents commonly 
show up at homes early in the morning, when residents are waking up and 
disoriented, to make arrests. ICE agents, whose authority is generally 
more limited than that of the police, have a long history of posing as 
officers to detain immigrants. Ruses include tactics such as wearing 
shirts or vests that say “police,” yelling “police” at the door of an 
apartment building, or simply failing to identify themselves as ICE agents.

“They come to the door and they mimic local law enforcement,” wearing 
dark navy blue and presenting themselves as such, said Genia Blaser, a 
senior staff attorney with the Immigrant Defense Project in New York. 
Blaser said that there are two common tactics the agency uses involving 
decoy photos. In the first instance, agents will show a photo of a 
person, unknown to the residents they’re speaking with, and with a name 
they don’t recognize. The agents will then say they are attempting to 
verify that no one at the residence fits the description, and the 
targets will give them access to the home. The officials will then 
proceed to detain the people living there. The other tactic, she said, 
is to use a photo of someone else but with a resident’s name.

_The use of_ ruses is perfectly legal and has been encouraged by ICE for 
at least 14 years. Internal memos from ICE under the George W. Bush 
administration fully embrace ruses as an effective tactic for making 
arrests. “Ruses can run the gamut from announcing that you are with the 
DRO [Detention and Removal Operations] and looking for a person other 
than the target to adopting the guise of another agency … or that of a 
private entry,” says one 2005 memo. The memo instructs ICE agents to 
give the entity they wish to impersonate a heads-up prior to using their 
name, as well as the chance to raise concerns (which may subsequently be 
ignored). “Private entities can be particularly sensitive to the use of 
their name in law enforcement operations,” it goes on to say.

In 2017, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., introduced a bill 
to Congress that would have prevented ICE officers from wearing uniforms 
that say “police.” The bill got little traction, but Velazquez 
reintroduced it earlier this month. Velazquez has noted that ICE’s 
tactics could erode law enforcement’s trust with communities. “I’ve 
heard firsthand from families who fear reporting crime or engaging with 
the police due to the potential of getting caught up with immigration 
agents,” she said 
in a 2017 statement. “This only makes our communities less safe.”

Since then, ruses have only gotten more elaborate. The Immigrant Defense 
Project, a legal advocacy organization that serves attorneys and 
impacted communities in New York state, has documented more 
<https://raidsmap.immdefense.org/> than 1,000 ICE raids in New York 
state since 2013. There was a case last year in which ICE posed as 
someone from the local DA’s office, Blaser said, and tried to arrange a 
meeting on a street corner to talk about a case. There have been other 
cases, she said, when ICE has called claiming to want to return a lost ID.

While efforts to pressure local law enforcement not to cooperate with 
ICE have been successful 
in some areas, it’s not clear that the police or local agencies are 
aware when ICE uses their likenesses — in apparent conflict with the 
2005 memo. In New York, “the local precinct often will have no idea 
what’s going on,” Blaser said.

Sometimes, agents clarify that they are immigration agents only after an 
arrest is made. The National Immigration Justice Center filed a lawsuit 
December 2018 against officers for allegedly conducting traffic stops 
without pretext. The suit documents two instances in which ICE agents 
wore vests that said “police,” and did not identify themselves as ICE, 
to conduct traffic stops in Chicago and detain those inside the 
vehicles. The suit is still being litigated, but the plaintiffs allege 
that “individuals were led to believe they were interacting with Chicago 
Police officers until they were taken to the ICE office in downtown 
Chicago,” Tara Tidwell-Cullen, director of communications for the 
National Immigrant Justice Center, wrote in an email.

    “It appears that ICE agents were essentially on call and ready to
    pick up individuals who were stopped by sheriff’s deputies.”

In Tennessee, ICE agents stopped drivers for minor traffic violations on 
July 12, according to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights 
Coalition, an immigrant-led group that provides legal services to 
immigrants and advocates on their behalf to the state legislature. “The 
sheriff’s officers did not charge the drivers with any crime or bring 
them into local custody, but instead called ICE agents to the scene,” 
the group said in a statement. “It appears that ICE agents were 
essentially on call and ready to pick up individuals who were stopped by 
sheriff’s deputies.”

The coalition and the Southern Poverty Law Center are investigating the 
apparent collaboration between the sheriff’s office and ICE. “These 
arrests are a direct result of an emboldened ICE and local law 
enforcement who saw the president’s threats as an opportunity to harass 
immigrant communities,” said Meredith Stewart, senior supervising 
attorney with SPLC.

_There are also_ cases in which ICE agents work in plainclothes to 
surreptitiously gain entry into residences and buildings or to convince 
immigrants to meet them. Last summer, Blaser said, in one of the more 
elaborate ruses that the Immigrant Defense Project is aware of, someone 
pretending to be looking for a contractor to work on his house in 
Newburgh, New York, made an appointment with the immigrant to give an 
estimate. When he came to the worksite with a colleague, the man, 
wearing paint-splattered pants, asked him to stick around, saying, 
according to Blaser, “Our boss is on their way, and I know they’re going 
to want to talk to you.” Then, an unmarked van came up and arrested the 
targeted person.

Plainclothes ruses, too, seem to be standard practice. In 2017, a man 
was arrestedby plainclothes officers 
in Oregon, where he was working on a house. In February, there were 
in North Carolina that ICE agents had posed as day laborers, wearing 
bandanas and driving a van that had ladders affixed. In response, ICE 
spokesperson Bryan Cox said that the agency is “non-uniformed.”

Nikki Marín Baena, who works for the national organization Mijente and 
is a volunteer with Siembra in North Carolina, sees the ruses and 
detainments on the way to work as a response to immigrants increasingly 
being aware of their rights. Now that more immigrants know not to open 
the door, Marín Baena said, the direct result is an increase in 
deceptive tactics by ICE.

Increasingly, she said, a large number of arrests have been made while 
folks are on their way to work — which indicates that ICE agents are 
increasingly following and surveilling their targets before making an 
arrest. They’ve warned community members to look out for American-made 
cars with dark tinted windows. When asked whether community members she 
works with are aware of the surveillance component, Marín Baena said, 
“People are starting to notice ‘How did they know that? How did they 
know people would be there at that time?’”

Surveillance also appears to be a growing component of ICE’s approach. 
Last week, WNYCreported 
that Palantir, a software company co-founded by billionaire Trump 
adviser Peter Thiel, is enabling ICE to easily access available data 
about its targets, including photos from driver’s licenses. (Palantir 
was previously revealed to be facilitating 
<https://theintercept.com/2019/05/02/peter-thiels-palantir-was-used-to-bust-hundreds-of-relatives-of-migrant-children-new-documents-show/> the 
arrests of family members of children who crossed the border alone.) 
And, according to documents acquired 
by the American Civil Liberties Union in March, ICE is also using 
readers to read and log license plates in a database.

To underscore the absurdity ICE’s use of surveillance — an expensive 
endeavor — to go after undocumented people who have done nothing but 
ignore their final notice of deportation, a civil offense, Marín Baena 
drew a comparison to tax evasion. “It’s kind of like the IRS issuing 
administrative warrants for everyone who didn’t file a 1099, and then 
spending money to go after every single one,” she said.

“The U.S. is the world’s largest detention and deportation system, and 
an inordinate amount of money is extended into it,” Blaser said. “It’s 
really a moment to step back and ask ourselves to reevaluate the system 
and what’s the purpose of such a system that deprives individuals and 
communities of human rights and dignity and totally dehumanizes groups 
of people.”

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