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Hispanic community on alert after immigration sweeps

ICE arrests 13 people in Gainesville as part of nationwide effort

POSTED: February 14, 2017 12:13 a.m.

Fear and distrust have returned to the Hispanic community following a sweep against undocumented immigrants that netted at least 13 arrests in Gainesville over the past few days.

The arrests coincided with a broader crackdown across the country carried out by Immigration, Customs and Enforcement offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Antonio in which more than 680 immigrants without papers were detained, according to multiple news outlets.

In Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina 190 immigrants were arrested, 127 of whom were convicted criminals.

Magdalena Martinez said the sweep hit close to home at her small evangelical church — Victoria en Cristo — located in a commercial strip on Hilton Drive off of Atlanta Highway. Martinez said a church member was stopped and arrested for driving without a license.

“Many of our members don’t have papers,” said Martinez , who leads the children’s ministry at the church pastored by the Rev. Rufino Osorio.

Martinez was one of the few people willing to talk on the record with The Times. Several said that there is fear and distrust in the community as was the case almost 10 years ago during a wave of immigration sweeps that had many on edge.

Marina Reyes, a clerk at a Hispanic-owned supermarket on Industrial Boulevard that fronts Atlanta Highway, said she remembers the negative impact such sweeps had on the local business community in 2009 during the Obama Administration.

“A lot of people were afraid to leave their homes,” Reyes said. 

According to the Hall County jail intake logs, 13 people were arrested between Thursday and Monday related to immigration offenses or had federal holds.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox, who covers the southern region, did not respond to a request for the number of arrests in the Gainesville area.

“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy,” Cox said in a statement. “ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to take credit for the crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” Trump wrote Sunday.

However, Martinez said she and the members of her church will continue to pray for the president.

“God puts presidents and kings in positions of power for a purpose,” she said. “God also removes them from power.”

DHS Secretary John Kelly said Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted immigrants who are a threat to public safety, including convicted criminals and gang members. He said 75 percent of those arrested were criminals, some of whom had been convicted of homicide and aggravated sexual assault.

Similar roundups under former President Barack Obama yielded far more arrests. In March 2015, ICE said a five-day enforcement effort ended with more than 2,000 arrests.

During the Obama administration, however, ICE agents generally arrested wanted immigration fugitives and convicted criminals. Last week’s arrests included immigrants whose only offense was an immigration violation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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