U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo
PENINSULA — Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson is trying to get the facts after ramped up U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations.
He wrote a second letter on Wednesday, again asking the federal agency to let his office know about its activities on his turf, including arrests, sweeps and seizures.
“I’ve got word not one, single time that they’ve made an arrest here,” Johnson said. “It’s not like it has been in the past, the pre-Trump days.”
The new memo requests the same information as the sheriff’s April 17 letter to ICE but, he said, the new one makes clear in large red letters across the top that it is the second notice. Johnson wants to be made aware of actions taken in the county by federal agents so local law enforcement has a chance to monitor situations if they so choose.
“It will also allow us to provide factual information to our citizens and law enforcement partner agencies after an event, and will help promote transparency and public trust,” Johnson wrote.
Snubbed by the feds
So far, the sheriff said, D.C. seems to be ignoring his plea.
Of course, ICE takes orders from the White House and President Donald Trump has plans to build a wall along the country’s southern border. He’s said he wants to deport more people who’ve come across without permission.
Johnson insists federal agents ought to let local officials know about their activities. And as the county’s top lawman, he believes he can require it.
Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright said his department has had no recent contact with ICE either. The last time was several years ago when federal authorities notified him of the possible presence in the area of an armed fugitive who entered the U.S. unlawfully. The department has not taken part in any recent raids and does not consider immigration status in making law enforcement decisions, Wright said.
After seeing families of friends and neighbors torn apart by immigration arrests and deportations, Stephanie Serrano, of South Bend, said she wanted to speak up for those being targeted by ICE’s “cloak-and-dagger” operations.
“They’re being watched, stalked is the right word,” she said. “Several oyster pickers have been followed. … Most (of those who’ve been arrested) are hard-working people.”
Serrano said advocates are documenting stories of local immigrants being taken. They believe ICE has arrested 32 in the past 18 months.
Erin Glenn, a Spanish teacher at Ilwaco High, said a father with five young children was arrested Wednesday morning. The sheriff said ICE did notify the sheriff’s office that it was in the area at 5:09 a.m. but, Johnson said, he was not made aware of any arrests made by agents.
The ICE operations office in Seattle handles all of Washington, Oregon and Alaska but does not have arrest and deportation numbers by county “readily available,” spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. The Portland office and several others throughout the region are under Seattle’s jurisdiction.
Local totals might be available through a Freedom of Information Act request, Kice said. If so, there’d be a wait for the records.
ICE reports making 2,698 administrative immigration arrests across its three-state Pacific Northwest region during the 2016 fiscal year. From Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016, 248 of those arrested had no criminal convictions.
Twice as many, 493 non-criminal immigrants were arrested in the area between Oct. 1, 2016 and June 30, according to ICE.
More than half of those who were deported from the northwest during the past budget year, 1,395 had clean criminal records. This year, 1,639 criminals were among the region’s 3,044 immigrants who had been removed as of June 30.
Fighting the fear
Serrano earlier this month spoke out against the arrests and deportations at a rally outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. She helped organize a trip to the private immigration prison for about 20 protesters from Pacific County. They came to the Aug. 12 demonstration with granola, dried fruits, coloring books and crayons to give to those traveling to visit loved ones in the lockup.
The volunteers continue to work with advocacy groups, such as Willapa Bay Resistance, Long Beach Indivisible and Living Liberally to support immigrants rights, Serrano said.
“ICE is a real threat,” she said. “It’s changed the atmosphere in our community. There wasn’t this kind of fear before.”