AP, February 18, 2009
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 24 Hispanics at a convenience store in Baltimore two years ago after their supervisor told them to “bring more bodies” because they were behind their annual quota of 1,000 arrests per team, according to an ICE report released Wednesday.
The immigration rights group CASA de Maryland, which has accused ICE of racial profiling in the 2007 raid, released the agency’s internal investigation report and said it shows that the agents acted improperly.
CASA officials have charged that ICE agents ignored blacks and whites at the 7-Eleven store as they rounded up all of the Hispanics, even crossing the street to detain Hispanics waiting at a bus stop.
Soon after the raid, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) asked for an investigation into whether the ICE officers racially profiled the people they arrested. ICE’s internal probe found the allegations to be unsubstantiated, Fobbs said.
“I have confidence that the new Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will fairly address this and other immigration issues,” Mikulski said in an e-mailed statement in response to Wednesday’s report.
Of the 24 men arrested in the raid, one proved that he was in the country legally, 19 were deported or voluntarily returned to their native countries and four remain in immigration proceedings, said Justin Cox, an attorney with CASA representing some of the men.
The ICE agents involved in the raid are part of the agency’s fugitive operations program, which tracks down violent criminals living in the country illegally. Agency records from the program show that beginning in 2004, the teams were assigned to arrest at least 125 fugitive immigrants. In 2006, each team’s quota was increased to 1,000 fugitive arrests.
The debate over the raid centers on whether the agents had probably cause to detain the men or whether agents targeted them simply because they were Hispanic.
“I think that this validates all the concerns that the immigrant rights community has been expressing for the past couple of years,” Cox said.