AUSTIN - After a day of reports surrounding Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions at various locations throughout Austin, Congressman Joaquin Castro confirmed a targeted operation by ICE in South and Central Texas. The Mexican Consulate of Austin and ICE confirmed over 50 people were detained since Friday in Austin.
Here’s a look at what KVUE knows about the situation:
Immigration officer incident
Early Friday morning, an incident was reported between an immigration officer and another person. Austin Police said the incident started after a traffic stop was made by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer that then turned physical.
KVUE spoke with the mother-in-law, Teresa Velazquez, of the man who was eventually detained and she said an ICE officer claimed to have a warrant and tried to detain the man. After running, the man and the immigrations officer ended up in a physical confrontation.
Reported raids pour in on social media
As Friday morning continued to roll on, social media began to fill with posts from people reporting ICE raids and arrests throughout the community. KVUE began investigating the reports with law enforcement and Defender Tony Plohetski talked to law enforcement sources at the federal, state, and local levels and none reported any operations outside of their daily action.
“As a federal agency, ICE has jurisdiction and doesn’t have to tell us when they are conducting operations in Austin,” APD Interim Chief Brian Manley said Friday. “I’ve not been made aware that anything is different.”
ICE released a statement Friday that read:
“ICE conducts operations daily nationwide. ICE does not conduct random sweeps; all ICE operations are based on investigative leads. By removing from the streets criminal aliens and other threats to the public, ICE helps improve public safety.”
Austin City Councilman weighs in on ICE
Shortly before noon Friday, Austin City Councilman Gregorio Casar said in a statement on social media that his office had confirmed “a large amount of Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions in Austin.”
Casar continued in his statement saying, “ICE is out in public arresting people in order to retaliate against our community for standing up for our values against people like Abbott and Trump.”
At a press conference later, Casar said he confirmed the raids through the media.
“Multiple members, I think, of the media here reported on an arrest this morning and multiple members of the media here reported on the video that happened right up the street here at Whataburger, so that is another public ICE action,” Casar said. “As you heard from multiple speakers with years of experience these sorts of public arrests are clear demonstrations of trying to intimidate the community.”
Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham took to Facebook Friday afternoon called Casar's statements, "outrageous."
"Not only does questioning law enforcement put our communities at risk, it paints a bull's-eye on the backs of the brave men and women sworn to protect us under extremely challenging circumstances," Buckingham said on Facebook.
Video emerges of ICE arrest in Austin
As morning turned to afternoon, a video began to make the rounds on social media of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest that took place Friday morning. The arrest was captured on video by a Central Texas man near the intersection of Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane.
The video showed multiple pickup trucks surrounding a black pickup truck with ICE officers working around the truck and at least one person in custody. A minivan and a full-size van both appeared on the scene before the video ended.
The video was viewed more than half a million times by Friday evening and had been shared almost 20,000 times.
Congressman Joaquin Castro confirms ICE raids across Texas
Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) released the following statement Friday evening:
"I have been informed by ICE that the agency’s San Antonio field office has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check. I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state. I will continue to monitor this situation."
An ICE operation in 2015 named "Cross Check" lasted five days and resulted in more than 2,000 convicted criminal aliens being arrested across the nation. ICE also conducted an operation called "Cross Check" in 2012 that resulted in more than 3,000 criminal aliens and others being arrested.
Castro told KVUE Friday night, "I have put in questions to ICE to make sure that the people being targeted are truly dangerous and violent people who are, or could be, a harm in the community and not people who are peaceful folks who have been here a long time, paying their taxes, taking care of their families."
He said that many of the people he spoke to Friday are fearful they'll be targeted by ICE and he stresses that everyone should know their rights.
On Saturday, Castro told KVUE that ICE officials said Operation Cross Check is expected to last between five and eight days and that officials would not provide more information until the operation is complete.
Lawyer: Lack of Clarity Causing Confusion
Immigration lawyer Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch indicated one of the biggest problems facing the immigrant community is a lack of clarity over who may be targeted.
“Under the Obama administration, we understood who the priorities for enforcement were for the agency,” Lincoln-Goldfinch said. “We had memos that laid it out that said felons, people with significant misdemeanors, recent immigration violations. These are the people that the agency wants to deport.”
Lincoln-Goldfinch continued, “Now, under the Trump Administration, under the executive actions, everyone who is in the U.S. who is undocumented is an enforcement priority for the agency. So essentially, no one is safe; even people who have clear criminal histories.”
The attorney said that in general, she’s received far more concern from clients who are going through the citizenship process rather than those who lack legal status in the country.
Friday afternoon, Austin City Council Member Delia Garza was critical of the lack of information surrounding any possible ICE action.
“I think it's irresponsible to not know what's going on, why it's going on. We know it's going on, we've seen video of it going on, we have families telling us it's going on, explain what's going on, that's what this community deserves,” Council Member Garza said. “If this is legal, if this is lawful, let us know that.”
APD Reassures Community They Work for Everyone
In a Friday evening press conference, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley again said that ICE has legal jurisdiction in the area and that means ICE can conduct actions without checking in with police beforehand.
Still, Manley said that APD’s purpose is to keep all residents of Austin safe, regardless of their citizenship status.
“I want to reach out to the immigrant community and reaffirm that we are here for you as we are here for anybody else in our community,” Manley said.
The chief said that immigrants should not be fearful to reach out to Austin Police and that police officers are not concerned about a person’s citizenship status and is instead, “absolutely, 100 percent focused on the safety of citizens.”
Confirmed ICE detainers
The Mexican Consulate in Austin confirmed to KVUE Friday evening that 30 Mexican immigrants in Austin were detained on Friday, which is six times as many as are detained on an average Friday. 14 were detained Thursday. Consul General Carlos Gonzales Gutierrez said that all of those detained were males. He said that many were picked up in their cars and that while some were taken into custody at schools, the agents were likely in the process of following them. To his knowledge, agents are not sitting outside schools waiting to detain people.
On Sunday, the Consulate confirmed that another nine people were detained on Saturday and Sunday -- bringing the total number of people arrested to 53.
The Consul General is now attempting to calm some of the fear created by those detainments.
"I have been very active in Spanish-speaking media trying to spread the message that this is not massive raids, as sometimes one reads in the paper that they are going to schools or going to hospitals or they are going to working sites, that we have not seen," he said.
Gonzales Gutierrez added that many of the 100,000 undocumented Mexican nationals in the Austin area have roots here that go back 10, 15, 20 years and aren't used to this. He said that his job is to tell people the truth and make sure they understand that "the status quo" in the United States has changed.
The resources of the office of the Consul General are available to any Mexican national in need of help.
More than a hundred people gathered Friday night to protest on North Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane. Demonstrators set off fireworks in the streets. APD officers in raid gear eventually pushed the crowd back.
A fire was started near a construction site and caused moderate damage. There were no injuries. Firefighters believe the fire was started by protesters throwing fireworks.
APD said that no arrests were made.
Protests continued Saturday night in the same area. A KVUE photographer witnessed three fight break out at the demonstration.
Organizers said they are planning more protests, including one at the State Capitol next Saturday.
Statement from ICE
ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda released the following statement to ABC affiliate KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley:
"ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending deportable foreign nationals. All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day. The focus of these operations is no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Team on a daily basis.
ICE will not confirm an operation prior to its completion, nor will ICE speculate on future operational activities. Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create mass panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support."
ICE releases fact sheet on weekend arrests
Editors Note: A prior version of the fact sheet ICE provided to KVUE listed an incorrect number of people detained. This passage has been updated with ICE's correction.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement updated the public on the number of people arrested in San Antonio and the surrounding areas during their operation targeting criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives from Thursday, Feb. 9 through Friday, Feb. 10.
In a release Monday, ICE stated that they arrested 51 foreign nationals, 23 of whom had criminal convictions.
According to ICE, a few of their arrests included a Mexican National who was previously removed from the United States and was convicted of sexual assault. A second person detained is an El Salvadorian citizen who pled guilty to sexual assault of a child. A third detainee was found to be a citizen of Mexico and was convicted of domestic violence charges as a repeat offender.
ICE clarified in their release that during the operation they were not conducting sweeps, checkpoints or raids that indiscriminately targeted aliens. They added that the sting sought to rid out public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who violated immigration laws and re-entered the country after being deported.
Additionally, ICE said that sometimes they come into contact with additional suspects who may be in the country illegally. Those people are evaluated on a case by case basis, and if necessary, they can be arrested by ICE as well.
The following ICE arrests have been filed with the Texas Western District Federal Court. The list will be updated as more are filed:
- Donaldo Mejia-Espinoza
- Jose Manuel Chang-Ramos aka: Joel Castellano-Blanco
- Francisco Ramirez-Aguilar
- Cristian Cazarez-Avila aka: Cristian Omar-Caceres
- Nelson Yael Chirino-Soleno aka: Juan Ramon-Soleno & Nelson Yael Obando-Chirino
- Edwin Caal-Ixtabalan aka: Raymundo Mendez-Garcia & Edwin Mendez-Garcia
- Miguel Angel Chagolla-Pina aka: Pina Chagolla
- Rafael Juarez-Martinez Aka: Rafael Martinez
- Felipe De La Cruz-De Leon Aka: Felipe Dc Leon-De La Cruz, Felipe Delfon
- David Garcia-Castro
- Martin Sauceda-Garcia
- Israel Solis-Cruz Aka: Fernando Cruz-Salinas
(© 2017 KVUE)