Wednesday, June 16, 2004 | Inland Southern California |Sweeps still worry activists | Inland Southern California | Inland News

Sweeps still worry activists

MIGRANTS: A letter is read at Sunday Masses. One man criticizes the Mexican consul.

11:49 PM PDT on Monday, June 14, 2004

By SHARYN OBSATZ and DOUGLAS QUAN / The Press-Enterprise

Inland area priests, activists and consular officials remain concerned this week about recent immigrant arrests in the Inland area, even as the Border Patrol detention team shifted its efforts further south.

A Temecula-based Border Patrol team detained more than 150 immigrants in the Ontario and Corona areas on June 4 and 5. Agents made 161 additional arrests in Escondido from June 9 to 11.

All of the detainees were Mexican or Central American.

Catholic priests in the San Bernardino Diocese were asked to read a letter from Bishop Gerald Barnes at Spanish-language Masses over the weekend, with undocumented immigrant parishioners.

"It hurts us also that families are suffering separations," that fear is keeping people from the tasks of daily life, the bishop's letter stated in Spanish. "Experiences like these challenge our faith and our obligation as Christians."

Church leaders handed out information detailing immigrants' rights if detained.

"Together with many other civic organizations, we hope that at the core of this present crisis is not racial profiling where human dignity and human rights are dishonored," the bishop wrote to pastors in English.

Mexico's consul in San Bernardino, Carlos I. Giralt-Cabrales, said his office is investigating allegations of racial profiling and the criteria used by border agents to determine which immigrant areas to target.

The consul visited detainees Friday in Temecula and has contacted the Mexican foreign ministry about the sweeps.

Some activists, including Jorge Reyes of Pomona, say Mexico's consul in San Bernardino is not doing enough to denounce the Border Patrol sweeps and to protect Mexican immigrants affected.

"He wants to wash his hands (of them), to do nothing," Reyes, who owns an Ontario print shop, said in Spanish.

More than 1,500 people marched Sunday from Ontario to Pomona to protest the sweeps. Activists plan to meet tonight in San Bernardino to develop a strategy to stop the detentions.

The sweeps do have supporters, Border Patrol officials said Monday.

Border Patrol offices in San Diego and Temecula have been inundated with e-mails and calls of support, said Richard Kite, a senior Border Patrol agent in San Diego.

The detainees are from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Kite said. Of the 315 detainees, 283 have accepted voluntary departure, he said.

Kite said at least 10 of them have been ordered deported previously.


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