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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | U.S. | Immigrant Rights | Police State and Prisons
Raids on Santa Cruz Immigrant Communities Cause Severe Damage
Eyewitness and on-the-ground accounts from those directly affected by the recent pre-dawn raids launched by Department of Homeland Security and Santa Cruz Police Department on Monday, February 13 2017.
What sounded like a garbage truck at first in the dark hours of the morning turned out to be a nightmare for many families in the Beach Flats, Lower Ocean, and Live Oak neighborhoods Monday morning.
Beach Flats residents report hearing helicopters overhead and flash grenades were cast into several homes while an unidentified voice (no indication of jurisdiction) on a loudspeaker demanded that “[street address] come out with hands on head” blared. This caused confusion because [street address] is the address to the entire apartments complex.
Several streets were blocked off by armored vehicles, including SCPD’s BEARCAT while heavily armed officers in combat gear from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aided by Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) began banging on multiple doors and pried open an apartment door with a crowbar. Neighbors witnessed a family of three, including an 11 year-old girl, detained in handcuffs for over two hours as DHS tore through the apartment, confiscating phones and demanding identification. All three were released upon providing their IDs, passports, and TPS cards. One of the detainees told a neighbor that they were intimidated by officers after telling the officers that the person being sought after did not live at that address. The officers threatened to charge them with accessory.
“It was tough to watch,” said an eyewitness. “Just the lack of dignity allowed for a family that did not have anything to do with or have any knowledge of any crime.” A mental health crisis response team was notified immediately afterward by neighbors.
Despite the three detainees in the Beach Flats being released, there is considerable damage left in the wake of a poorly informed, mishandled, and extremely damaging raid.
Just a few miles East, at the same time, families in the Corcoran Apartments near 17th Ave were driven out of their homes with flash bang grenades, and windows were smashed in. A man with a work visa was taken, leaving behind his wife, toddler and an infant. The man was mistakenly arrested for having the same first and last name as the target suspect. After an attempt to charge the man with extortion, he was released after a court hearing on Wednesday morning, along with three others who were also mistakenly arrested.
The series of raids in Santa Cruz and Watsonville have coincided with hundreds of ICE raids happening throughout the country this week. In the larger context of a national crisis around mass-incarceration, for-profit prisons, and hyper-criminalization of communities of color, bigger questions demand analysis. What is the real impact of these militant arrests on already vulnerable communities?
“We are hearing the same story: officers are coming in with more weapons than they’re confiscating, ready to take on El Chapo, when that’s just not the reality,” says a Beach Flats resident. “The force is excessive, and the fact that they are entering the wrong homes makes their investigation questionable. It is clear these are scare tactics.”
“It’s problematic to couch this all as justifiable because of criminal activity,” says another Beach Flats resident who witnessed the raid. “We know the gang [tracking] system is faulty—there are kids categorized in the gang database without proper investigation.”
When asked about MS-13 gang activity in the Beach Flats area, one father said: “10-15 years ago they were here—now, I haven’t seen any here. Here, all I see here are kids.”
To learn more and get involved with the efforts in Santa Cruz to ensure sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, go to https://sanctuary-sc.net/contact/