Thursday, October 04, 2007
Residents in N.M. town accuse sheriff of illegal raids. Bizarre Raids" a U.S. Border Patrol official said local authorities don't have immigration-enforcement powers.
We will question to anyone if deputies have evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant. Evidence, what evidence are you talking about Mr Norbert Sanchez?. Look like Mexicans, Latino, brown skin? No way Jose we better stop this racist raids.
Where are those indivual rights? Are we talking to equal justice here?
CHAPARRAL, N.M. — It was 10:30 p.m. when a sheriff's deputy started banging on Maria's front door.
Startled, she came to the door and answered his demands to know who called 911. No one, said Maria, a 50-year-old illegal immigrant who asked that her last name not be published. But the deputy, whom she couldn't name, insisted he had to come in and look through the house.
Maria told the deputy to stay outside. But he barged in with relatives who came over to see what the commotion was about, she said. He searched the house without a warrant and questioned Maria and her relatives, including children, for nearly three hours.
Eventually, he left. But Maria was arrested in a traffic stop the next day when she couldn't produce a social security card during the stop.
"Now I'm afraid to call 911," Maria said, crying as she recalled her arrest.
The Otero County Sheriff's Department is routinely demanding proof of citizenship from residents either in traffic stops or at their homes, residents and their advocates say. The department has added extra patrols using a federal grant designed to help local authorities in border-area communities combat crime. More than a dozen people have been arrested and turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol since mid-August.
But civil rights advocates say deputies or police have no right to demand such identification and certainly no right to enter someone's home without a warrant or probable cause. An expert in immigration law called the Chaparral raids "bizarre" and a U.S. Border Patrol official said local authorities don't have immigration-enforcement powers.
"For any law enforcement officer to go in any home, they should do it legally, either through having a search warrant or by permission of the people inside the houses," said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. "In these cases, several times, the sheriff's didn't have a search warrant, a court order, or permission. There is a perception that the Constitution does not exist at the border. The sheriff actually has ignored basic constitutional rights."
Other local police agencies, including the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, have been accused of using similar tactics in the past.
In Panama City Beach, Fla., sheriff's deputies formed an Illegal Alien Task Force whose patrol cars parked at construction sites in force and arrested any worker who ran away.
Fifteen people in New York, including seven U.S. citizens, are suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, claiming it violated the Fourth Amendment during home raids there in 2006.
Norbert Sanchez, undersheriff in Otero County, said he found it hard to believe that a deputy would spend three hours at a resident's house.
"There's no way a deputy would sit there for three hours," Sanchez said of his squad of 36 deputies who patrol 6,000 square miles of southern New Mexico. "They are usually going from one call to the next."
Irma, a 47-year-old woman who asked that her last name not be used, said a deputy came to her house when someone complained that her dog was loose and demanded proof of citizenship.
"They asked if I was in the United State legally," said Irma, who declined to tell a reporter her immigration status. "I had a valid ID, but they just asked for a social security card and said they would arrest me." After she signed a citation charging her $150 for the loose dog — which she says wasn't hers — the deputy left without arresting her.
Raul Hernandez said after he was pulled over for a traffic violation a deputy demanded that he show a social security card, even after he showed his driver's license.
Sanchez said deputies have patrolled Chaparral looking for scofflaws. He said they aren't trying to enforce federal immigration law, but they will call the Border Patrol if they believe someone is an illegal immigrant.
The extra patrols are funded under Operation Stonegarden, a federally funded border security initiative to help local agencies curb crime in border communities, Sanchez said.
"We don't enforce immigration laws, we enforce county and state statutes," Sanchez said. "We are not going down there targeting or profiling these people. We do the same operations in (other) parts of the county."
Sanchez said deputies have asked some residents for social security cards, but only as a means of identification.
But Kathleen Campbell Walker, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said social security cards are only a work authorization document, not a legally valid identification card.
And a Border Patrol spokesman in Washington said the deputies are not allowed to use Operation Stonegarden to seek out illegal immigrants.
Operation Stonegarden only allows local agencies to fund overtime shifts for routine operations, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Ramon Rivera said.
"They have the right to stop and question someone's identity" when pursuing a criminal suspect, Rivera said, speaking in general about local authorties' rights. "They have the right to hold someone for the Border Patrol to help identify these people. Under Stonegarden, they have no immigration authority. We do not grant immigration authority to them."
Walker said immigration enforcement by local authorities isn't new or unusual, but typically, a local government will first pass a law aimed at rooting out illegal immigrants.
Chaparral and Otero County have no such laws, making the deputies' actions "bizarre," Walker said.
Sanchez said his deputies have done nothing wrong.
"What we do is verify that we are speaking to the right person," Sanchez said. "We're just down there enforcing the laws."
And if deputies have evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant, it is their duty to detain them and notify the Border Patrol, Sanchez said.
"We do detain illegal immigrants, for the simple fact that Border Patrol generally doesn't patrol Chaparral unless there are doing something over there," Sanchez said. "We call the Border Patrol and they generally send a unit down to meet with us."
The Border Network for Human Rights is handing out rights cards to residents in Chaparral and reminding them that they don't have to speak to police without a lawyer and deputies cannot come into their homes without permission or a warrant