It’s been a long day at work- and I’m riding on the metro late at night, just dreaming about the comfort of my head. Out of the corner of my eye, a man in a jump suit is walking towards me…
“Hello, could you step to the the side for a minute, we’d like to ask you some questions”
In my drowsy state I can’t think fast to enough to figure out what they’d want with me, but as my mind begins to quicken, and I see the lettering on the back of their jumpsuits- I understand…
“We’d like to see your identification please…”
Is this the Berlin border in 1950? No it’s the DC metro last week…
This article recently appeared in El Pregnero:
“María and another young man they had just caught were quietly taken to an administrative office in the Metro station where seven more detainees were being held.
Although they were treated well, she says, some were in such nervous shock that their whole bodies trembled.
“Since I didn’t have documents, they asked how long I’d been in the United States and where I was from. The information I gave them did not match what the computer said, so they detained me for three hours,” says the woman, whose immigration papers are currently being processed.
No such luck for Juan, a Guatemalan immigrant who was detained around the same time the same Monday in the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington, Virg.
After finishing his day’s work, Juan started home in Washington with a group of fellow construction workers. He was buying his ticket from the machine when some agents tapped him on the back, took him aside and asked him questions before moving him out of the station.
They put him in a white van with black tinted windows parked on the street, where ten other detainees were waiting.
Juan’s coworkers panicked and ran away and were able to alert his family. At the time this article was written, Juan was being held in Richmond, Virginia and was to be deported in several days. Juan’s wife, like María, sought help from a community organization in Columbia Heights. She did not want to give a declaration, preferring that her husband remain anonymous. Juan’s wife (who is from Mexico) and her four children, ages 12 to 19, are terrorized by what occurred.
None of the members of Juan’s divided family have immigration papers. This situation has altered their lives, as it has María’s, who calls the raids a “campaign directed at Hispanics.”
“They were looking for Latinos,” she says. “They only stopped us, coming from our jobs. They know we do not speak English, which is how they try to attack us.”
Although she was treated well during her detention, she feels discrimination and racism against her community.
“We leave the house and don’t know whether we are going to return. Everything affects us psychologically,” she says. “Since I came to this country, I have always felt like a rat holed up inside my house all the time, as if I had just arrived, and it’s sad when you can’t do anything, even drive.” The “American Dream,” she says, is for “some, but not all.”
Local police departments have said they do not detain people to ask their immigration status. Most local police agencies agree they have no interest in enforcing immigration laws. They do, however, report to immigration authorities when they make traffic stops or arrests and their computer files indicate when an individual has a deportation order.
When consulted about the raids in the Metro, various local police said they had no information on these activities or jurisdiction over the Metro stations, which are run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency (WMATA).
Joanne Ferreira, WMATA spokesperson says there were no detentions during the raids in the two Metro stations. “We reviewed this and there were no arrests in those stations. We do not have information about arrests in that area,” she says.
ICE spokesperson Michael Keegan was contacted and promised to investigate, but has not made an official statement about the Metro incidents.
For his part, immigration attorney Luis Salgado recommends that immigrants take precautions for the possibility of a raid. “Carry the telephone number of a lawyer to call in case of arrest,” he advises. “Speak with family members, neighbors and friends to have a plan in case of arrest, especially what you are going to do with your children and who will pay bail.”
For those who are detained, Salgado recommends that they “do not say anything, and ask for an attorney.” If immigration authorities knock on your door in the middle of the night, this expert’s advice is not to open the door. “Call 911 so that the police will protect you and decide whether immigration officials have a warrant to enter the residence.”
Immigrants whose papers are in process (even if they don’t have a work permit) can be put into removal proceedings, but if their case is advanced it is possible to stop deportation. “That’s why I recommend carrying a photocopy of the latest document that proves the immigration process is on course,” Salgado says.
For activists like Gabriela D. Lemus, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, these raids don’t do anything to improve our immigration laws. “What they cause is fear in our communities and the segregation of families,” she told the news agency EFE last month.
Diverse civil rights coalitions asked President George W. Bush again last month for a moratorium on the raids, an end to deportation of the undocumented and greater political action in favor of prompt immigration reform.”