Friday, October 18, 2013

Rogue Bakersfield ICE Office Accused Of Illegal Arrests In Kern County Court House

Bakersfield office ICE agents allegedly arrested undocumented immigrants at the Kern County courthouses who were attempting to pay fines, at court hearings or getting married. 

By H. Nelson Goodson
October 18, 2013

Bakersfield, CA - On Thursday, the ACLU of California and the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project sent a letter to John Sandweg, the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accusing the Bakersfield ICE office of conducting illegal detentions of suspected undocumented immigrants at Kern County courthouses while attempting to pay fines, appearing at court hearings or getting married. The ACLU cites three occasions of illegal arrests in the last several years. On September 24, 2013, Hector Esquivel Chavez was taken into custody after waiting in line to pay a fine for driving without a license. ICE agents took him into custody as his 2-year-old daughther watched. Chavez and others in line were asked to come into a court room, if they didn't speak English and needed a Spanish translator. Once they went into a courtroom, they were read their rights and taken into custody by ICE.
Another case cited by the ACLU occurred in January 31, 2013, when Sergio Villatoro was at the Kern County courthouse in Lamont, CA when multiple ICE agents entered the area and detained all those people who looked Hispanic. Villatoro noticed that an ICE agent had a photo of a man they were looking for, but the ICE agents blocked all the exists and arrested everyone that was Hispanic. ICE told those that were arrested that they were in custody because they were in the country illegally. 
ACLU claims, that Villatoro was not a target or ICE could have not known he was undocumented because ICE agents never presented a warrant for Villatoro and the others detained for being undocumented. 
The other case happened on September 12, 2012, when Gurvinder Singh and Kuldeet Kaur, both nationals of India were about to get married at a Kern County courthouse division. Singh was questioned by several ICE agents about his legal status, after Singh explained he came through Mexico, he was arrested. He was later released after ICE discovered that for the last two years he was in deportation proceedings. Singh was placed on electronic monitoring by ICE.
ACLU claims that the Bakersfield ICE agents weren't aware of Singh's proceedings and didn't have a warrant to arrest him at the time. Singh and Kaur were able to get married on November 14, 2012, with the help of their attorney.
ACLU also claims that Bakersfield ICE agents allegedly violated the First and Fifth Amendment rights to access to courts for those arrested in the last several years. The ICE arrests have been documented in Kern County, but ICE agents have also arrested suspected undocumented immigrants at Santa Clara, California courts as well, according to the ACLU.
The arrests of suspected undocumented immigrants at courthouses has kept people from seeking restraining orders, paying their traffic fines and from other legal proceedings for fear of being taken into custody by ICE while at the courthouse.
The ACLU requested Sandweg to investigate the alleged illegal arrests by ICE agents in both Kern County and in Santa Clara. 
ICE released a statement that they are only arresting those suspected undocumented immigrants that are deemed a threat to the U.S. It seems Sandweg has a rogue Bakersfield ICE office that is engaging in illegal arrests, despite federal laws preventing such detentions.

No comments: