- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

Federal agents arrested 14 illegal aliens Thursday in Virginia, drawing criticism from local pro-immigration advocates who say the federal government is using the raids as a scare tactic.

Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency has in custody 12 illegals who were arrested in a 3 a.m. raid in Leesburg, Va. Two others are awaiting trial before an immigration judge.

“We responded to a request by the Loudoun County Police Department [and] encountered 14 illegal aliens in a van,” she said. “We are looking into the possibilities of [it being related] to smuggling. It’s an ongoing investigation.”

The raid, and word of others like it, sparked panic among local immigrants, advocates said yesterday.

ICE last week arrested nearly 1,200 illegals in 26 states at IFCO Systems North America Inc. plants, following an announcement that the agency would beef up enforcement.

Juan Carlos Ruiz, general coordinator of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition (NCIC), said he received more than 30 complaints about raids on families and day laborers — four of them “confirmed” — in Arlington and Herndon, and that he has heard rumors of similar raids that took place in Maryland.

Another raid took place on Columbia Road NW in the District yesterday, he said.

Mr. Ruiz did not say how he confirmed that the raids had occurred. ICE officials said yesterday such raids did not happen.

The NCIC yesterday called on President Bush and Congress to intervene and stop the raids, which the group says have caused small local businesses to lose money because immigrants and illegal aliens are afraid to leave their homes.

The group thinks the raids are a concerted government effort to discourage illegal aliens from staging more rallies calling for a path to citizenship. Some area groups plan to take part in Monday’s nationwide boycott of school, work and shopping.

We “formally demand that President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security put a moratorium on these raids until comprehensive immigration reform has been reached [in the Senate],” Jaime Contreras, president of NCIC, said at a press conference at the Foundry United Methodist Church in Northwest yesterday.

“If they don’t stop, we will be planning major activities at their offices and remind them that we are not intimidated in no shape or form … and we will be doing civil disobedience if necessary,” he said.

There also have been several reports of people posing as police or immigration agents, advocates said.

Ms. Fobbs said ICE does not conduct random street sweeps, road checks or open-air raids because such activity would be classified as “profiling.”

“That’s not something that we do,” she said. “Our activities are planned. When we’re going out to look and do an investigation, we have people we specifically are looking for. … These operations are not random sweeps, but carefully planned enforcement actions that result from investigative leads and intelligence.”

Ms. Fobbs said the nationwide IFCO raids were the result of a nearly 18-month-long investigation, and that the number of ICE investigations has not increased since the agency announced its plan to be more aggressive on illegal immigration.

“What you’ve seen [Thursday] and what you’ve seen last week were ongoing activities that were already in the making,” she said.

Anyone who is approached by an immigration agent can ask to see that person’s identification, and can report to ICE any suspicious activity online or by phone, Ms. Fobbs said.

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