Friday, June 25, 2004

Welcome to AJC! - Immigration Arrests in Calif. Reviewed

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Immigration Arrests in Calif. Reviewed
Associated Press Writer

ONTARIO, Calif. (AP)--The Department of Homeland Security will review a series of arrests of illegal immigrants more than 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said Friday. Federal lawmakers say the sweeps have sparked widespread fear and charges of racial profiling.

Undersecretary of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson told members of Congress from Southern California that the more than 400 arrests were legal but violated policy because they were done without authorization from headquarters. A report is expected next week.

Hutchinson will review the activities of agents from the Temecula Border Patrol station who made the arrests, Border Patrol spokeswoman Gloria Chavez said. Such arrests will continue, however.

``We will continue our mission until the undersecretary has the opportunity to review all the information available because we have a job to do,'' Chavez said.

Hutchinson, the Homeland Security official in charge of border enforcement, agreed to the review after meeting in Washington with lawmakers.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., said she's received scores of calls from constituents worried about the sweeps. She said Hutchinson told lawmakers he wasn't aware of their extent.

``The first step is to enforce the policy that's there, and he didn't realize the extent to which it's been breached,'' she said.

Hutchinson spokeswoman Suzanne Luber said the raids weren't supposed to happen as they did although she insisted they are legal. She said no disciplinary action was expected.

``This is a coordination issue, not a disciplinary issue,'' Luber said.

The Border Patrol has said the arrests do not reflect any change of policy or mission. But officials with the agency acknowledge it has expanded the number of agents in Temecula assigned to its roaming patrol, given them additional training and sent them to interior cities where such enforcement is rare.

Illegal immigrants have been picked up on the street, pulled over while driving, or caught coming out of stores in communities 100 miles or more from the Mexican border. The raids have spread such fear that some people without papers have stopped going shopping, attending church or going to work, immigrant advocates say.

Associated Press Writer Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.


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