Detroit Area Latinos Protest Immigration Agencies

Latinos Protest Immigration

There are dozens of complaints against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the Detroit, Michigan area stemming from incidences where Latino-Americans have felt profiled. Lidia Reyes of Latino Family Services, a private community outreach agency, has said she and her employees—all U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents—have been stopped and questioned 6 times by CBP agents over the last 3 months. During a Latino Women’s forum held at her center on May 5, which drew about 50 Latino women from around the community, a CBP patrol car and 6 officers on bikes circled the block numerous times, closely watching the gathering until Ms. Reyes asked them if they were lost and needed directions. They then left. Reyes has said, "It's caused fear in the community. It feels like we're under siege." She added, I carry my passport with me every day.” A similar organization called the Detroit Hispanic Development has reported similar incidents. They have complained the CBP agents show up when Hispanics are there for English as a Second Language classes and follow Hispanic women who are participating in a walking class sponsored by the organization.

In June, the Arguelles brothers, two Latino U.S. citizens from Detroit, were fishing on the Detroit river. There were approximately 50 other fisherman in the immediate area but the Arguelles’ were the only Hispanics. A CBP agent pulled up and walked up to them and began questioning them about their residency status. Four more CBP agents arrived and continued to question the brothers until they were satisfied with their answers. CBP agents have been known to ask U.S. citizen Latinos for their birth certificates after they stop them in their cars for no apparent reason other than that they are Hispanic. The Alliance for Immigrants Rights in Detroit has reported dozens of complaints of institutional profiling to their offices and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has fielded numerous complaints against their agency as well. The sheer number of complaints has prompted Michigan lawmakers and Detroit community leaders to meet with ICE and CBP directors to voice their concerns.

Both agencies flat-out deny any profiling. CBP spokesperson Kris Grogan has said, "There is no one prototypical subject for whom Border Patrol agents are looking to the exclusion of others. The Border Patrol regularly apprehends illegal aliens and smugglers from all nations and ethnicities." An incident of ICE agents arresting illegal immigrant parents at the Hope of Detroit elementary school, a school with an 85 percent Hispanic population prompted stiff criticism but ICE claimed there was no misconduct even though it is ICE policy to not disrupt the activities at schools, churches, weddings, funerals, or hospitals. A similar incident at the Detroit school, Neinas Elementary, composed of 78 percent Latinos, prompted the response from ICE that, "This alleged operation simply did not occur.” However, the long list of complaints has had some impact on these agencies. ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale said, "These events have provided the agency an additional opportunity to reiterate its policies governing ... operations involving sensitive locations in a manner that addresses community concerns and is appropriate under the law.”