Mayor Steve Schewel has condemned last week's immigration raids that took 25 people into custody in the Triangle, including people in the country illegally who were not the initial targets.
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency made arrests of valued Durham residents, including people who are parents of U.S. citizens," Schewel said in a statement. "As mayor of the City of Durham, I condemn these arrests in the strongest possible terms. "
Last week's raids also brought condemnation from the mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, who said their towns did not know about the raids ahead of time and their police departments did not assist in them. Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said he also did not have prior knowledge.
The Durham City Council, which is already facing a contentious local issue over police training partnerships with Israel, will address the immigration raids at its regular meeting tonight in Durham City Hall.
In his brief statement released over the weekend, Schewel said:
"We embrace every Durham resident regardless of documentation status, and we do not want ICE striking fear in our community. We also want our community to know that the City of Durham Police Department does not cooperate with ICE in any way and does not receive advance notice of ICE activities in our city. I have also confirmed that neither the Durham Police Department nor the Durham Sheriff's Department had advance notice of the ICE arrests this past week.
"I am asking our immigrant communities to stay vigilant, and I want you to know you are welcome in the City of Durham regardless of your documentation status.
On his council Facebook page, Durham City Council member Charlie Reece said he, too wants, Durham to be a welcoming place for immigrants and their families regardless of their documentation status.
"I know that the mayor and the city council feel the same way," he wrote. "To be clear: no one with the city of Durham was notified that these raids would be taking place in our city. That’s why ICE raids like the one that swept up our neighbors in recent days are so scary — because they’re out of our control, and because we have no idea if or when they will happen again in the future."
Schewel also thanked the staff of Durham-based El Centro Hispano for helping the affected families.
Last week, El Centro Hispano identified 10 men detained in Orange and Chatham counties: brothers Luis David Ordoñez, Cruz Enrique Ordoñez Guerra and Gabriel Ordoñez Ramos, Marco Antonio Cano Velázquez, Hugo Waldemar Cano Velázquez, Manuel Isaias Ascencio Ortega, Edwin Enamorado, Otelio Mondragon, Josue Diaz Perez and Rufino Ruiz Dias.
The nonprofit agency has started a GoFundMe page to raise $30,000 for the families' legal fees. As of Monday morning it had raised $7,335.