MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Latino Memphis fired back at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after raids the advocacy group called 'abusive' and racially motivated.
Latino Memphis said while ICE can legally remove immigrants, they are doing so without warrants and inciting fear in the Memphis community.
Mauricio Calvo of Latino Memphis told a story of one family living in Prescott Place Apartments. He said the family woke up to a loud banging on the door. ICE agents were outside demanding to be let in.
Calvo said nobody in the family's home had active warrants or was wanted for a crime. He advised the family not to let anyone in their home unless the people outside could provide a valid search warrant.
Ten minutes later, the ICE agents left without ever getting into the family's home.
However, not everyone was that lucky.
"All of the sudden these children did not have a father. So, you try to tell me this is America?" Greg Diaz with Las Americas said.
Diaz said he received a phone call from a terrified wife saying her husband was pulled over and taken away because he was unable to show his immigration documents.
"This is real. We've got families that are being separated. We've got families that are struggling, that are in deep pain because of the administration," Diaz said.
"We're not against having an immigration system. We're not against ICE... we're against ICE conducting itself in this manner. This is unacceptable. People have rights," Calvo said.
"Immigrants have rights just like everybody else has rights. We have a criminal justice system that deals with the criminality and criminal behavior of anybody in the United States and that system also works for immigrant people," Latino Memphis Legal Director Casey Bryant said. "But, the problem is that when immigration says they are going to come after people who are criminals, they don't even necessarily know who is a criminal and who is not. We believe that everyone should be treated with the dignity and respect that humans deserve and we at Latino Memphis are trying to do that."
Group leaders are concerned over what they say is a lack of transparency from ICE, which is carrying out "abusive practices, racial and economic profiling, and creating distrust and division" in Memphis.
Latino Memphis said ICE is conducting raids in areas where many Latinos live. The group said ICE does not have any search warrants, nor does it have any specific evidence that someone living there is in the country illegally. Instead, ICE is raiding places at will with the hope of finding someone without proper documentation.
"Most of the people we have spoke with, have been detained without a warrant. That is unacceptable," Calvo said. "I'm here to tell you they are not criminals, and our city is not safer because they have taken people who are innocent. We would like to challenge ICE to provide documentation of who they are going after. They made a statement saying they are not going after communities. They are going after communities. They're racially profiling communities."
Latino Memphis leaders held a press conference Friday morning to stand in solidarity with the Latino community. The group held the press conference at Prescott Place Apartments, which was the first apartment complex to be targeted by ICE this week.
"These are your neighbors. These are the people that your kids go to school with. These are the people who clean your homes. These are human beings like your brothers and your sisters, and an injustice for one person... is an injustice for all people," Calvo said.
Latino Memphis also spent time during the news conference thanking Memphis Police Department for not being part of or helping ICE conduct these raids.
"We want to think our police department because they have done a very good job of not interfering and not collaborating with ICE. And I think that's an important statement, and I think our city has done an amazing job doing that," Calvo said.
Shelby County Schools Chief of Staff Brian Stockton joined Latino Memphis at Friday's press conference. He spoke to reassure the Latino community that SCS was there to serve all students.
"Shelby County Schools' mission is to serve all families and provide the best education possible to all of our students, regardless of their immigration status. Shelby County Schools does not share any personal or contact information with any external organization or agencies. The only reason our district and schools collect information is to contact families directly to inform them about their child, school, or academic progress. We want families to know that we are here to serve them and to ensure that their children attend schools this 2017-2018, it's going to be a great year," Stockton said. "We do not require social security card, birth certificate, or any type of immigration document. Let me repeat that one more time. To register your kids for school, we do not require a social security card, a birth certificate, or any type of immigration document."
Likewise, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen is concerned with the ICE raids.
Friday, Cohen penned a letter to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan regarding his concerns with the raids, such as reports that ICE targeted people without criminal histories and minors.
Cohen listed six complaints that he has for Director Homan, which include:
- How ICE determined who it would target in these raids?
- How ICE determined that these raids were the best way to use its limited resources to keep our communities safe?
- How many of the arrested individuals had committed a criminal offense, other than an offense related to illegal entry?
- How many of the arrested individuals were suspected of having criminal offense, other than an offense related to illegal entry?
- How many of the arrested individuals had committed no criminal offense, other than an offense related to illegal entry?
- How many of the arrested individuals were not suspected of having committed a criminal offense, other than an offense related to illegal entry?
The raids lasted several days, leaving Memphis Police Department to try to clear the air for those that felt targeted.