U.S. Rep David Price criticized recent ICE raids Friday after meeting with families of two men arrested in Orange County last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“I’m upset with the raids, the detentions that have occurred,” Price said at the Carrboro offices of El Centro Hispano. The agency has been helping the families caught up in the raids that took 40 people in the country illegally into custody across the state, including 25 in the Triangle and Siler City
“If we’re going to prioritize enforcement of detention, deportation — immigration enforcement — that needs to be focused on people who pose a danger to the communities, who committed serious crimes," Price said.
Price is a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which helps determine the budget for immigration enforcement. In that position he can advocate on behalf of individuals in immigration cases, his spokesman, Sawyer Hackett, said.
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ICE makes arrests daily in accordance with its ongoing targeted enforcement. But agents also detain people they come in contact with while seeking their targets. “We are not going to turn a blind eye,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said last week. Some of those arrested in the Triangle were not intended targets.
Eliazar Posada, a spokesman for El Centro Hispano, said ICE agents have used deception to detain people in more progressive towns. In some cases, families said ICE officers haven’t been clearly identified as federal law enforcement.
Cox said ICE agents don’t have a uniform but do carry badges and credentials that identify them. Although it’s unclear whether the ‘ICE’ insignia is on display when the officers are on the field, their clothing labels them as “police.”
“The word ‘police’ is the most universally recognizable symbol of law enforcement in most cultures, and many of the individuals who ICE officers encounter are not native English speakers,” Cox said. “Insufficient ‘police’ identifiers will increase the likelihood that a subject may resist, flee or take some other form of aggressive action against our officers.”
In some of the recent arrests, officers have asked for help locating a specific person, Posada said.
“They give a typically Hispanic name, like Francisco or José, and show a picture,” he said. “And in the course of speaking they ask for identification.”
That’s what happened to Edwin Enamorado, one of the two men arrested in Hillsborough last week. His wife, who asked that her name be withheld, said ICE agents tricked her daughter in order to enter her home.
Enamorado was turning on his car to go to work at around 6 a.m. on April 10, when he noticed a civilian car that appeared suspicious, said Posada. He went back into the house, and the officers knocked on the door. Enamorado told his wife to wait in a separate room with their sons: a 2-year-old and a 14-year old.
The couple’s 18-year-old daughter, who was born in Durham, opened the door, the wife said. Five policemen — only a few with the word ‘ICE’ on their vests — showed her a picture of the man they were looking for. It wasn’t Enamorado. The agents asked to enter the house, promising her they wouldn’t ask for anyone elses's identification.
“After verifying and looking in every room, and [realizing] the person they were looking for wasn’t there, they proceeded to ask for documentation of the family and arrested the husband,” Posada said.
Otelio Mondragón, a friend of the family who lives in the same house, was also detained.
Enamorado's wife said the couple has been in the United States for 21 years, and that her husband is the pastor of an evangelical congregation in Hillsborough. His arrest has devastated the children. She’s seen similar cases of families being separated on the news, but never thought it would happen to hers, she said.
Both Enamorado, from Mexico, and Mondragón, from Honduras, worked as handymen. According to Posada, they were the main breadwinners, like most of the men whose arrests left families without resources to sustain themselves.
“It’s very difficult for someone to be the one taking care of the family to now being the provider of the family without any kind of prior notice,” Posada said. “So we’re doing our best to help them as much as possible.”
El Centro Hispano is holding a drive to support the families who can’t afford the basics — from diapers to baby food. Items can be dropped off or mailed to the organization's offices in Durham and Carrboro. The nonprofit also set up a GoFundMe campaign to help 12 of the affected families pay for legal fees, which range from an estimated $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the case. As of Friday afternoon $11,080 had been donated.
After Price spoke Friday, elected officials and representatives from Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County, expressed their concern that the raids might make immigrants less trusting of local police.
“We welcome all of our immigrants. ... We want everyone to feel safe in our community,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, who said last week that police had received no prior notice of the raids. “What’s happening at the federal level, as it trickles down to the local level, impedes any trust we have with our local law enforcement.”