By Paul Teitelbaum
Published Apr 21, 2010 3:52 PM
In the early morning hours of April 15, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI and other Homeland Security agencies launched a military operation against Tucson’s mostly Latino/a and Indigenous south side neighborhoods.
The operation included military helicopters and agents in black ski masks carrying assault rifles and high-powered pistols. Simultaneous raids took place in parts of Phoenix and Nogales, Ariz., but the main focus of the 800-plus-agents operation was Tucson.
The invasion and occupation of the community terrified residents. Lynda Cruz, a Tucson activist, was notified by south side residents of the raids and immediately went to see what was going on. “We got calls saying there were raids here, raids there. I have never seen anything like this before. Men with AK-47s and black masks covering them. I was threatened by an ICE agent that said I would be arrested if I interfered in any way,” said Cruz.
Kat Rodriguez, another activist, said: “What we have experienced for the last six hours is the terrorization of our community. People are afraid to leave their home, afraid to go shopping, afraid to go to the hospital, afraid to go anywhere.”
There were reports of ICE agents targeting children on their way to school. “One family called,” said Cruz, “and told us that their two sons, two young Latino boys, were taking a Suntran bus to school and were taken off the bus by ICE agents. Classmates had to call the parents to tell them ICE had taken their children.”
The stated purpose of the raid, dubbed “Operation in Plain Sight” by ICE, was to target “human smuggling operations” in southern Arizona. ICE targeted four small shuttle companies that provide transportation between Tucson and the border town of Nogales. It seized 40 vehicles and other assets of the companies and arrested 51 employees.
There were additional arrests of 17 undocumented persons the agents came across during this operation. (Arizona Daily Star, April 16) In Arizona, if you do not have documents and you pay someone to assist you across the border, you are considered guilty of human smuggling. Essentially, the law says that you have smuggled yourself; that by paying someone else you are a co-conspirator in a human smuggling operation.
This military operation occurred just days after the Arizona legislature passed a racist anti-immigrant bill that requires all police to demand proof of citizenship in any situation that presents a “suspicion of unlawful presence in the United States.” If you cannot produce a document to prove your legal status, you are automatically arrested. This bill also makes it illegal to stop traffic in order to enter a vehicle for the purpose of seeking work, a direct attack on day laborers.
On the heels of this law is a bill outlawing ethnic studies programs and another bill requiring schools to report the legal residency status of all K-12 students. It is expected that Gov. Jan Brewer will sign these bills when they arrive on her desk.
A few hours after the raids, more than 100 people rallied at the federal building in downtown Tucson demanding that the Obama administration and Homeland Security Director (and former Arizona governor) Janet Napolitano stop all raids and deportations and keep the military out of our communities. A youth group has formed to discuss strategies for combating this racist state terror. Other Tucson activists have called for planning sessions to develop a response for future ICE invasions.
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