Jorge’s car sat outside La Chapala Market in Old Town Goleta with its blinker on and the gear shift in reverse. It sat like that for five hours on Sunday, June 10, until his wife got a call from a detention center in Orange County — ICE agents had arrested her husband. Jorge was one of 22 Santa Barbara County residents picked up in a three-day raid.
Jorge, whose full name is being withheld at the request of his family, came to the United States from Mexico in 2001. He worked two jobs — construction during the day and janitor services at night. His wife works part-time cleaning downtown offices. Jorge was sitting in his car when ICE officers approached him, his wife said. The officers said they were looking for a suspect and showed Jorge a photo, asking if he knew the man. He said he didn’t. Then the officers began questioning Jorge, his wife said. They asked for his ID, and he showed them his Mexican consular identification card. They told him he was being detained.
Jorge has two adult children, a daughter living in Santa Barbara and a son who was deported several years ago. His daughter has hired a lawyer and said the family plans to fight his case. Jorge was convicted of a DUI more than 15 years ago, said his wife, but he paid all his fines and hasn’t gotten into trouble since. He’s well-liked in the community and has many friends, she said. He’s very high-spirited. He likes to go dancing.
Jorge was the main provider for the couple, his wife went on. They need him economically, but even more so emotionally, she explained. It’s been especially hard on his two granddaughters, whom he’d helped raise after his son was deported. He loved to spoil them, she said.
While Jorge has been in contact with his family, other detainees have not been so fortunate. Some people can’t communicate with their families, Jorge told his wife. They don’t know their phone numbers or don’t have money to call.
During the three-day raid, ICE picked up a total of 162 individuals in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. ICE insists that “all enforcement actions are a part of routine, daily targeted operations.” However, ICE targets have changed under the current administration and under the zero-tolerance policy announced in April to include anyone who is in the U.S. illegally.
Congressmember Salud Carbajal commented on the recent operation. “I have serious concerns about how ICE carried out recent immigration raids in our community, including reports of the agency using racial profiling to target Central Coast residents for arrest,” he said. “These actions undermine public trust in law enforcement, especially among immigrant communities, and ultimately make us less safe. ICE must focus its limited resources on deporting dangerous criminals and gang members, not on separating families or arresting college students who are productive members of our society.”
Carbajal’s office has requested additional information from ICE on the six people detained in Goleta, including Jorge and a City College student who is believed to have no prior criminal record.
ICE’s inclusive targeting has led to an increase in what the Oxnard Mexican Consulate refers to as “collateral” detainees. “You didn’t see so many before,” said Javier Cerritos de los Santos, consul for protection and legal affairs at the consulate, “but it is nothing to be alarmed about. We know of people who were picked up as ‘collateral’ but also of people who were let go,” he said. ICE Director Thomas Homan has made it clear the agency does not exempt anyone deemed a “removable alien” from potential enforcement.
ICE reported that almost 90 percent of the 162 individuals detained in the raid had prior criminal convictions. DUIs, drug offenses, and domestic violence were the top three convictions with 47, 20, and 13, respectively; 63 percent of the 143 convictions reported were for nonviolent offenses.
While the consulate was busier than usual as a result of the operation, the deportations are constant, said Cerritos. The consulate, which covers the tri-county area, is notified about an average of 15 detainees a week, he said.
Jonathan Álvarez, consul for community affairs, said it’s important for people to know their rights. Álvarez advised people to never lie to the authorities or present false documents. Give your real name, but don’t give any more information than a name, he said. Let them know you are aware of your Miranda rights and remain silent. Do not sign any documents. “If detained, you have a right to contact your consulate,” he explained. “We provide Mexican citizens with lawyers free of charge, and we are here to ensure your rights.”
Álvarez also urged people to have a plan in case they are detained. “If you are worried about your criminal record, contact a trusted lawyer to learn how you can clear it,” he said. Álvarez suggested that anyone with questions contact the consulate or call its 24-hour Centro de Información y Asistencia a Mexicanos (CIAM) hotline at 1 (855) 463-6395.