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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Americas | East Bay | Immigrant Rights | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice | Womyn
ICE/HSI Raids Home in West Oakland with OPD Assist, Resident Speaks Out Afterward (video)
On Wednesday, August 16, at about 7am, a convoy of unmarked federal vehicles rolled up in West Oakland and a dozen or more agents jumped out, demanding entry into a Latina home. The agents only identified themselves as a "special unit" and said that they were investigating a family-owned cleaning business. The owner of the house and business is a legal US citizen, although some at the house are more recent migrants from Guatemala who have fled violence in their homeland. After handcuffing and detaining the family for over four hours, the agents quickly left and 21-year-old Laura came out to speak to the crowd of supporters and media that had gathered out front.
Visibly shaken, tears in her eyes, wearing a bathrobe, and holding her young son, I called out to Laura that she did not have to talk to the TV cameras that were rushing toward her. She said she did want to speak. Still, I will not print her or any family members' full names here in order to protect their privacy.
Laura felt compelled to offer another side to the story after Oakland police issued a press statement claiming the raid was related to child sex trafficking, completely slandering the family with a blatant falsehood. OPD had to justify why it was involved at all after word of the raid blew up across social media, surely much to their chagrin. Oakland's city council approved legislation in July rescinding the department's authorization to work with ICE on immigration matters, and yet, there was OPD assisting an ICE raid in August. Feeling the heat, OPD got out a statement insisting that they were only there for traffic control, that it was not an immigration enforcement action, throwing in an over the top allegation against the family in time to hit the noon television news broadcasts that day.
Of course, the corporate media ran with the salacious allegation that ICE was serving a warrant in an investigation into the sexual trafficking of minors. OPD later updated their press release to read "human trafficking" instead, but the damage was done and multiple outlets have yet to correct their stories online. Even with the update, however, labeling the raid as related to the somewhat less monstrous crime of human trafficking is still hyperbolic in that it stirs images of modern day slavery in the public imagination.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was far more reserved than OPD, releasing no details: "Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations are executing a federal search warrant this morning as part of an ongoing criminal investigation."
Laura's entire family was handcuffed for hours, save for her very young son. ICE woke the family up and controlled everything that happened in her home from about 7am until they hurried away at 11:20am. The house was thoroughly searched. Property was removed in numerous boxes.
From her vantage point during her detainment, Laura was unclear at first who was taken from her home by ICE. To witnesses in the street, it appeared a woman with a blanket over her head was arrested and removed. No woman was arrested, but ICE did removed two men (one with blanket). It was Laura's adopted brother and her sister's husband who were taken away. Neither have had previous problems with the law since being in the United States.
One of the two men was released later that day. The other remains in custody despite no charges having been filed. The only apparent issue is his lack of documentation. Immigration lawyers are currently working to establish a bond and secure his release.
Laura speaks about the danger faced by family members in Guatemala and the difficulty in legally seeking asylum in the U.S.. receiving no sympathy from American officials. Laura's sister was stabbed 13 times in Guatemala and ended up coming to the U.S. without authorization. Her brother also came without documentation after the majority of his friends were murdered in Guatemala.
OPD insisted it was a criminal investigation and not a deportation matter, but no arrests were made related to the supposed investigation and two people were removed from their home, one arrested due to immigration issues.
See a report by Darwin BondGraham on the Oakland ICE raid for more details, including a statement by ICE and the updated one by OPD trying to explain their participation despite the recent City Council voted to rescind authorization for collaborating with ICE and HSI.
Two men were arrested for immigration-related matters, nothing to do with the warrant. The first was released later the same day because he did have immigration paperwork in process. The other, with no immigration documentation, was not released until August 30, after being held for two full weeks at the West County Detention Center in Richmond, California. He was released on a $5000 bond, pending his appearance at future immigration hearings.
Photos and more raid details: