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Press Release Regarding ICE Incidents At San Diego Fire Evacuation Site (Qualcomm Stadium)
by Necalli Olin Tonatiuh
Sunday Oct 28th, 2007 7:18 PM
The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium just released this Press Release regarding the treatment of immigrant families and people of color who have been evacuated. (repost of comment on a previous article)

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium just released this PR regarding the treatment of immigrant families and people of color who have been evacuated.

City officials in charge of the evacuation site at Qualcomm invited a Border Patrol information unit to drive in a van and set up a tent next to FEMA and Red Cross inside the stadium. Although the unit is present to provide map information for burn areas, the presence of a BP van and uniformed BP officers has intimidated a number of immigrant families seeking refuge. The presence of BP led a volunteer today who was registering evacuees to turn away undocumented individuals because the volunteer presumed that the evacuees would be in danger of apprehension, especially following an incident yesterday (described below). She did not communicate this to those turned away. She simply turned them away from the only open evacuation center in the county.

Yesterday (Wednesday October 24, 2007), the police initiated an immigration enforcement action that was contrary to their policy of not calling in Border Patrol / ICE unless and until they file a formal criminal charge against a person.

Police detained approximately 12 evacuees (at least four were children) who they alleged were "looting" donated blankets, food, and toys for the children. The detained evacuees and witnesses reported to us that volunteers were urging all evacuees, some of whom were preparing to return home after two days, to take as much as they could because the evacuees might find their home damaged and might not be able to access food and other important items due to the evacuation and destruction of stores in the area.

Taking this to heart, the evacuees in question who were part of the same family, gathered multiple blankets and as much food as they could carry in preparation of returning home. There have been no shortage of donated goods and in fact, the city has asked the good people of the city to stop donating items.

The evacuees were detained by the police for three hours on site without being charged. The police asked the evacuees for their documents. When they presented none, the police called in an outside unit of Border Patrol to conduct an "immigration inspection". The police never brought any charges against the evacuees. Prior to the arrival of the BP, a Channel 8 cameraman attempted to film the police interaction with the evacuees. One of the officers covered the camera with his hand, pushed it and the cameraman away, and took the microphone from the reporter. When a Spanish-speaking volunteer attempted to intervene to assist the family, one of the officers took her picture with his cell phone to intimidate her. When BP, came they asked the detained evacuees for documents and six of them (plus a 2-year old U.S. citizen child of one of the evacuees) were taken away, held for several hours without food, and deported. They are needless to say devastated.

Yesterday and this morning, both SDPD and BP reported out that the detained evacuees had confessed to "looting" for the purposes of selling the merchandise. AFSC spoke to the evacuees in Tijuana today and they say emphatically that they never confessed to this. There are no witnesses to this alleged confession. Piolin, a national radio personality from LA paraded through the stadium after the incident and congratulated law enforcement for getting rid of looters. All of the local media outlets regurgitated the law enforcement line about looting, despite being advised by witnesses that they had seen something to the contrary. Lots of comments about how we don't want those people in our country. I heard one BP officer say in defense of the deportation, "Immigrants don't want these kind of people here representing them."

After the incident, Kevin Keenan from ACLU spoke to Chief Lansdowne about our concerns about the improper police pass off. He assured Kevin and then later the public in a press statement that the police were not interested in immigration enforcement. Later that night, around midnight, police walked around the stadium from family to family asking for identification and proof of residency in an evacuated zone. One ID was sufficient for a family. The problem of course was that lots of individuals and families could not produce IDs or the ID addresses did not correspond to an evacuated zone and some folks were just plain homeless and had come in for shelter from the air. Those who could not produce the proper IDs were escorted out in the middle of the night. Those who remained were given wrist bands.

This morning, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis congratulated law enforcement for eradicating freeloaders from the stadium and stated that no evacuees would be allowed into the stadium without identification. Pursuant to an agreement between Kevin and Lansdowne, the SDIRC was allowed to set up a table inside the stadium between FEMA and BP. Half a dozen families approached the table stating that they had slept in the parking lot during the night as they had for several nights and when they attempted to enter, they were asked for their IDs. At least one family member in each family was undocumented and were intimidated. One evacuee, after failing to produce an ID, was asked what his immigration status was by a volunteer, then threatened that he might be arrested if immigration officials approached.

The undocumented members were let in only because they had other family members who could show a license, a "green card", a consular ID card, or an address. All homeless persons were turned away. No address, no service. All persons who failed to show any of the above and did not have a documented family member were turned away.

Another half dozen individuals informed us that they had been detained and questioned by police in the parking lot or while exiting the stadium for allegedly looting or taking more than their fair share of free donated items. Families were asked to count heads for all the blankets in their possession. Some families were taking items back to family members who were too scared to come in. In one instance, police put orange cones around a car until it was "cleared." Towards the end of the day, families with undocumented members were afraid to leave or afraid to take any food or blankets with them for fear of being detained and deported, since they were doing no different than the family deported yesterday. We [SDIRC] escorted some of them out.

It should be noted that it was not just immigrants, but other persons of color who were harassed and suspected of looting. An African American woman was harassed for making two trips with a baby stroller filled with items (I [Andrea Guerrero] witnessed this one). She attempted to register a complaint with the police officer in charge who treated her poorly and refused to process a complaint.

We took a written statement. She was so upset by the end of the day and afraid to leave with anything else, that she told me she was headed back to Oklahoma (she had only recently moved). A Filipino volunteer who had been helping people day and night was thrown out for making two trips out to cars, both times to assist people to their cars. The officer threatened to tazer him and charge him with trespassing. When the volunteer coordinator tried to intervene on behalf of the star volunteer, he was pushed out of the way. After the incident he was told not to talk to anyone. We filmed the incident and tried to talk to the volunteer coordinator, but he had recently survived deportation proceedings and was so scared (in part because he did not have his green card on him) that he considered walking away from his job right then and there. Another Latina woman was denied diapers for her baby because she was told there were none. She stepped aside and then watched as a White woman asked for the same size of diapers and was given them. The woman was upset and only successfully acquired diapers when Pedro from AFSC went with her to ask. When I left today, there was a mountain (possibly 1,000 bags) of diapers. There was also a mountain of donated items that could have served 10 times the number of people left in the stadium. The whole afternoon, we watched White evacuees take cases of water and other large loads to their cars without being questioned.

SDIRC will continue to observe potential abuses of immigrants at the evacuation centers. We talked to the media a lot today to draw their attention to the disparate treatment. We have been in communication with the Chief of Police and with politicians to press for services and a welcoming climate for immigrants and other people of color (regardless of status). We are helped by our many allies. We are preparing to launch a multilingual hotline for immigrants, and hope to do much more.

I have created a google group for Friends of SDIRC (SDIRC has its own group) to facilitate looping people in from near and far who want to receive or share information relating to the current situation. The group will become active tomorrow. If you want out of the group, just let me know. If you know someone who wants in, let me know at aguerrero [at] SDIRC also has a website that we will be using to post information starting tomorrow after noon:

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This link was found to be missing from search engine(s)San Diego ResidentMonday Oct 29th, 2007 5:26 PM

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