Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aggressive ICE Raid in Ellensburg, WA

Lornet Turnbull writes for the Seattle Times:

Kixcia Barrientos awoke early Thursday morning to a flashlight shining through the mobile home she shares with her parents and 15-year-old brother. There was someone shouting at her parents to get on the floor.

Her next image was of her mother and her father, a local pastor, walking down the hallway toward the living room — their hands cuffed.

"They asked if they should handcuff me and my brother, and someone else said 'there was no need,' " said the 11-year-old, who was born in this country.

Kixcia, a sixth-grader at Morgan Middle School in Ellensburg, said the agents searched the home for documents, photographed some of what they found and carted away other things. "Then they took my mom and dad away."

She and her brother are staying with relatives.

Her parents were among 30 people arrested in a raid in Ellensburg early Thursday morning by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s Homeland Security Investigations following a year-and-a-half-long probe into an operation that involved the manufacture and sale of counterfeit ID and work documents.

"Those who create and sell fraudulent documents compromise our nation's legal identification system," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Washington state. Fourteen people — 13 of them women and all of them Latino — were arrested on criminal warrants following grand-jury indictments. They made their initial appearances in federal court in Yakima on Friday.

The other 16 people had been identified during the course of the investigation and were arrested Thursday on immigration-violation charges, ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

Thirteen of them were transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and the three others were released on humanitarian grounds.

The early-morning raid and arrests rattled the central Washington town of 17,000 people, home to Central Washington University.

Census figures show about 7 percent of Ellensburg residents are Latino.

Residents described helicopters circling mobile-home parks, and the community buzzed with fantastic tales about agents busting through doors of a middle school to haul students from their classrooms. Read more...


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