Andrew Glazer, AP, May 31, 2006
LOS ANGELES — A civil rights lawyer on Wednesday demanded authorities investigate a roundup of hundreds of undocumented immigrants in what he called a desert dragnet based on racial profiling.
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, attorney Luis Carrillo claimed U.S. Border Patrol agents only pulled over people with brown skin in the five-day operation known as “Operation Desert Denial.”
More than 600 undocumented immigrants were detained from May 19 to May 24 along Interstate 40 near Barstow.
No light-skinned people were detained, Carrillo said.
“They gave people with blue eyes and light skin a free pass,” he said.
Carrillo also criticized authorities for focusing efforts far from the border. He said he did not plan to file a lawsuit against the Border Patrol.
At a news conference, Carrillo introduced a child of a woman who was detained and deported. He called the girl “a victim of this harassment.”
Teary-eyed, 12-year-old Wendy Ortiz said she and her two younger brothers were awakened by Border Patrol agents who shone a spotlight into a car being driven by her mother Violeta then bumped it and pulled it over.
The sixth-grader said the family had been traveling overnight to Barstow from their Phoenix home to buy wholesale kitchen supplies.
After determining that Violeta Ortiz was not a legal immigrant, the agents shouted at her and threatened to separate her from the children unless she waived a hearing and signed an order that led to her deportation to Mexico, the girl said.