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Friday, June 25, 2004

Monterey County Herald | 06/25/2004 | IMMIGRATION RAIDS FEARED

Monterey County Herald | 06/25/2004 | IMMIGRATION RAIDS FEARED

Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2004





IMMIGRATION RAIDS FEARED

Roundups elsewhere in state prompt Salinas meeting

By MARC CABRERA

Herald Salinas Bureau


The fear of immigration raids in Monterey County brought about 100 people to an East Salinas restaurant Thursday in search of answers.

The Salinas United Business Association invited representatives of the Salinas Police Department and the Mexican Consulate in San Jose to help quell widespread rumors of immigration enforcement activity in Monterey County.

The rumors broke out locally, and throughout the state, in the wake of federal Border Patrol roundups that have so far brought in about 400 undocumented residents in San Bernardino in the past week and a half.

Rick Moore, a Salinas deputy police chief, told the crowd at the Los Arcos de Alisal restaurant the department takes a "hands-off" approach to immigration cases.

"I know there are a lot of rumors going around regarding immigration sweeps that we may or may not be involved in," said Moore. "It has been our policy not to get involved in any deportation enforcement.... That has not changed."

The department has its hands full already with gang violence and other serious crime and could not handle cases involving charges of living in town illegally, he said.

But the crowd, leery of law enforcement, questioned the department's involvement, particularly the department's handling of gang members who are undocumented.

Moore said the department does not actively investigate cases beyond criminal intent, nor does it turn cases involving undocumented residents over to the federal government. But he did concede that immigration officials can take over after a department investigation if the case involves an undocumented immigrant.

"What happens after that is beyond us," he said.

Tony Acosta, representing the Citizenship Project outreach group that works with undocumented residents, said he had spoken with a local construction business owner who said six of his workers had been rounded up by immigration officials.

The Citizenship Project is still trying to substantiate his claim.

Speakers reminded people that they should be aware of their rights.

Bruno Figueroa, the Monterey County representative for the Mexican Consulate in San Jose, brought along dozens of phone cards attached to a list of rights for documented and undocumented residents.

He said that in Monterey County, the new fears have their roots in an INS sweep in Greenfield three years ago, when 39 Mexican nationals were deported.

"That's still very fresh in their memories," he said.

Figueroa said the Mexican Consulate has spoken with police chiefs for cities in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, and they have all said there has been no effort to raid homes or businesses in search of illegal immigrants.

Still, the fear has shaken communities from King City to Hollister, and Figueroa has started a campaign to inform people of their rights regardless of nationality.

"I understand because they live with fear everyday," Figueroa said. "The main illness they suffer from is stress, and having this fear in your guts everyday when you leave your children to go to work, and you don't know if you will see your family again."


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Marc Cabrera can be reached at 753-6755 or mcabrera@montereyherald.com.

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