Congressmember Salud Carbajal and fellow members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) said they have “serious concerns” over last week’s deportation raids that resulted in the arrest of 680 people nationwide, including at least five in Carbajal’s district.
In a letter sent Friday to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan, the caucus said the raids “have struck fear in the hearts of the immigrant community as many fear that President Trump’s promised ‘deportation force’ is now in full-swing.”
The congressmembers asked for an immediate meeting with Homan. One was scheduled for Tuesday, but Homan cancelled at the last minute, claiming the caucus had tried to expand the number of attendees, which would make the gathering too partisan and break congressional rules.
“Bullshit!” Representative Grace Napolitano exclaimed at a Tuesday afternoon press conference when asked about Homan’s reason for cancelling. She and other congressmembers said they knew of no such rules and that administration officials frequently meet with multiple members of the same party without equal representation of the other.
“The Trump people are clearly ducking accountability and oversight,” Representative Luis Gutiérrez told the Huffington Post. “This is unacceptable as rumors and fear circulate within cities and towns across America, and ICE is too busy to meet with the CHC or key Democratic leaders? That just doesn’t fly.”
Immigration advocates nationwide claim last week’s sweeps were both broader and more intrusive than previous ICE enforcement actions, despite assertions from ICE officials that Operation Cross Check was just another day on the job. “The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in a press statement.
Advocates worry the raids are a sign of shifting policies under Trump and his stated intent to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, which was fortified by his recent executive order to expand the criteria that would make a person a priority for removal ― including being charged with any criminal offense, no matter how minor, or committing an act that could lead to a criminal charge.
Carbajal said Tuesday that he would be meeting with immigration officials from the Department of Homeland Security both in Santa Barbara and Washington, D.C., “to ascertain firsthand the extent of their operations and future operating procedure regarding deportation priorities under this administration.”
Last week, Carbajal’s district staff met with ICE supervisor Steven Finn in Santa Maria to discuss the agency’s new arrest guidelines. Finn spoke generally about the Santa Maria branch’s mission and said it remains focused on finding convicted criminals. Carbajal’s staff are still trying to determine if the five Santa Barbara County residents arrested during Operation Cross Check had any sort of criminal record.
“With a federal government determined to tear apart millions of immigrant families through deportation, we’re counting on our local officials as our only defense,” said Lucas Zucker with CAUSE, a Santa Barbara-based immigrant rights group. Zucker said CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) is thankful school districts throughout the region have declared themselves safe zones for undocumented students. He said the group is now urging legislators to support the California Values Act to make California a sanctuary state for immigrants.