Community protests immigration raid on elementary school

DETROIT – Like an unreal scene from a bad movie, agents from the Detroit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, driving six large tinted-glass SUVs, surrounded the Hope of Detroit Academy elementary school and playground on March 31.

Parents dropping their children off at school became the targets of the federal immigration agents.

As the school was encircled, two families took refuge inside. Two additional families were followed and detained after dropping off children.

At an April 6 press conference to protest the action, Hope principal Ali Abdel said he was outraged by the action. The parents, he said, “are hardworking people, not criminals.”

The school became a frightened “ghost town” because of the raid, the principal said. After the afternoon bell, some parents were afraid to pick up their children, he said.

Abdel said the raid has had lasting effects, with some students no longer coming to school, others asking what is going to happen to them and many having trouble focusing on their studies.

“We want this to stop,” he declared.

The press conference was held outside the school despite cold rain. Hope of Detroit Academy is located in the largely Latino community of Southwest Detroit.

Speakers laid the blame for the outrageous actions at the feet of the Detroit ICE director, Rebecca Adducci.

Democratic State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the area, said such actions are becoming a pattern under Adducci, with reports of agents setting up checkpoints and watching schools, churches and supermarkets.

Many speakers pointed out that this is out of compliance with ICE’s own internal policies, which say agents should refrain from actions near schools, churches and other sensitive areas. The school adjoins St. Francis D’Assisi Church.

Ryan Bates, director of the Alliance for Immigrant Rights and Reform in Michigan, said that when he got a call about the incident his reaction was, “I didn’t believe it. It was so outrageous, so foolish, so cruel.”

He said he went straight to the scene and asked ICE agents if they had warrants. Their answer, he said, was, “We don’t need a warrant to be on a public street in front of a school.”

Told they had terrified students and adults, the agents finally departed. But, principal Abdel reported, “they returned later that day in time for the closing bell.”

Two weeks before the surrounding of the school, another horrible incident occurred.

Parent Rogelio Perez told the crowd, “I have three beautiful children, 9, 5 and 3. I was living the American dream. I was working and my children were going to the school.”

However everything changed the morning of March 23 after he dropped his kids off at school.

As he pulled up to his home, he saw lights flash. “It was ICE,” he said. Although he had done nothing wrong and they had no warrant, they illegally forced their way into his home. The search resulted in the detention of his wife who is six months pregnant. She was imprisoned and denied access to her medication and medical care. She has since been deported to Mexico with her three U.S. citizen children.

Residents here ask: Will the “unthinkable” continue to happen?

Lawrence Garcia, president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan, said the community is demanding a full investigation to determine the persons responsible for authorizing these “out-of-control” actions, censure and some form of punishment for the wrongdoers, and finally reassurance that ICE will stand by internal policies and respect laws like the Fourth Amendment that prohibit warrantless searches and improper targeting of people.

If not addressed within seven days, speakers said, a complaint will be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Photo: Ryan Bates, director of the Alliance for Immigrant Rights and Reform in Michigan, speaks at the April 6 press conference outside Hope of Detroit Academy in Southwest Detroit. Listening behind him are, left to right: State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (holding pad), Hope principal Ali Abdel, State Rep. Harvey Santana, and Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan President Lawrence Garcia. Photo courtesy of Reform Immigration for America – Michigan



John Rummel
John Rummel

John Rummel covers events in Michigan for the People's World. Following politics from a young age, John grew up in the Midwest, moved east and has now returned to his "roots." It's not politics-only for John; he loves sports, the outdoors and a cold beer or two!




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  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 15, 2011

    Union defends ICE Agents in Detroit:
    Leaders call on ICE managers to quit playing politics

    On the morning of April 5, 2011 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Officers were conducting routine surveillance of a home in the Detroit area suspected to be the residence of a criminal fugitive ordered deported from the United States by a Federal Judge. When a vehicle left the residence ICE Agents adhered to standard law enforcement surveillance techniques and followed.

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    The National ICE Council represents 7,000 ICE Officers, Agents and employees working for ICE.

  • Legal or not this is a sad story, no denying it. Yet we have a large portion of people living in America due to the lack of our governments responsability to having proper immigration inforced. This has lead to a frustration in many tax paying Americans who we are all from immigrants so I do not see myself as better than anyone. However, this lack of inforcment has led to the largest terrorist attack on our country! The Mexican cartels who have no reguard for human life and care only about the money to be made through the blood shed of innocent lives for there profit. When things have been let go for this long it appears unfair when we start to. We tend to forget through these stories of sadness that the law is being broken.

  • Outrageous, but expected. The people of Southwest Detroit are perceived as suspects these days; but I refuse to betray my neighbors!

  • After the “Patriot Act” was passed, ICE Enforcement officers no longer needs warrants.

  • Pulling people off the streets and tossing them into unmarked vehicles, while surely making a mockery of any universal laws concerning human rights? Just another groovy day in the freedom-loving USA.


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