Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) agents arrested and took into custody a third-year UCSB student early Wednesday morning for possible violation of immigration laws.
“Three days ago my friend called her to have lunch with her,” said Heidi Yoon, an international student from Korea and friend of the arrested third-year student. “She was crying and she said she couldn’t tell where she was: I don’t know if she didn’t know or if she didn’t want to tell.” Yoon was shocked to learn that her friend was still in custody, and said she did not know what would become of her. Yoon wasn’t alone in this response; scores of interviewed residents and employees at the Santa Ynez Apartments complex where the student lives had not heard news of the incident, and many were unsettled after finding out what had occurred.
The student, a sociology and philosophy major, is of Korean descent, though her citizenship or legal immigrant status remains unclear. Her family, many members of which live in Los Angeles, has retained Leon Hazany from the Beverly Hills based law offices of Asherson, Klein & Darbinian – specialists in immigration law. Hazany did not return calls made Friday afternoon for comment.
Despite being the only resident taken into custody Wednesday, the woman was not the ICE’s target when they entered her apartment. Agents came to her place at the Santa Ynez complex on El Colegio Road in search of her roommate, an international graduate student from Iran. The graduate student has also yet to return messages seeking comment.
The ICE records of the Iranian student allegedly had some irregularities or missing information, apparently prompting the early morning visit. After producing proper paperwork and identity information, the agents, satisfied with their finds, reportedly turned to her roommates to see their documentation or proof of legal status. After the third-year student failed to provide sufficient verification, agents took her in.
As of Friday afternoon, the student was being held in a Ventura County detention center, though she may be moved to to San Pedro. A public information officer for the ICE said she did not have access to the case Friday afternoon, but would be able to provide more information this coming Tuesday.
“I’m very worried about her,” Yoon said of her friend. Yoon met the woman last quarter, and said that she had been in the U.S. since at least high school. She described her as “outgoing” and “fun.” “She liked Facebook,” Yoon said while laughing.
News of the arrest sputtered through a small circle of UCSB instructors and students Thursday and Friday, though many quickly challenged the “raid” of the apartment and subsequent arrest of the undergraduate student. Some, like religious studies professor Rudy Busto, told students during lecture time or sent emails out to alert the campus community.
“I heard this from a colleague in my department last evening, and today university officials have been notified about the incident:” Busto wrote in an email to faculty members and graduate students on Thursday. He focused on the questioning of the Iranian student, who also teaches a course in Farsi at UCSB. “It is clear that this home invasion was entirely inappropriate and unnecessary, as issues of the legal and proper employment status for the targeted instructor could have been handled through regular university processes for requesting information.”
Darwin BondGraham, a sociology graduate student, said he had been in correspondence with several professors and Chancellor Henry Yang about what could be done. He scoffed at the necessity of the interrogation and arrest, and pondered how prevalent such tactics had become. “Where else is this happening in the U.S.? How many other international students are being questioned and detained in the middle of the night? How many people does this happen to that we don’t hear about? Why is this happening?” he asked. “The ‘war on terror’ has come home in a very ugly way. I know a lot foreign students and their friends who are very much on edge now. The prospect of being interrogated in the middle of the night is horrible.”
UCSB Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said the Chancellor arranged for the arrested woman’s lawyer to talk with the UC general counsel in order to obtain any necessary documentation about her student status. He said campus officials and the chancellor will work with authorities and the family until a resolution is reached. “He’s taking what steps he can in the best interest of the students,” Desruisseaux explained.