BALTIMORE—CASA de Maryland, an immigrant rights organization, has just released a videotape of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arresting 24 Latino workers and shoppers at a 7-Eleven in 2007 based solely on racial profiling, a flagrant violation of federal law.

The video shows the arresting officers ignoring Caucasians and African Americans while zeroing in on Latinos in the convenience store parking lot in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore where day laborers gather. The plainclothes ICE agents in unmarked vehicles posed as employers in order to trap their victims.

One of those arrested proved his legal status, nineteen were deported and four have pending immigration cases. Among the detainees was Ernesto Guillen, a janitor, who was on his way to Johns Hopkins Hospital where Tomas, his six year old son is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Casa de Maryland filed a lawsuit and waged a two year legal battle to force the Department of Homeland Security to acknowledge the incident. The federal agency finally released a damning report that the mass arrest was carried out to fulfill a quota. Every ICE team in the nation is under orders to make 1,000 arrests annually under ex-President George W. Bush’s “Operation Return to Sender.”

An ICE internal report on the Jan. 23, 2007, incident obtained by CASA quotes a supervisor in the ICE Baltimore Field Office telling his deputy, “bring more bodies in….go back out to make more arrests as the quantity of arrests that were made that morning was unacceptable.”

Yet the mission of these ICE teams is to apprehend “violent criminals who are in the country illegally.” Their instructions require them to show “probable cause” that a target is a criminal before making an arrest. Not one of the 24 people arrested met the criteria.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland said, “Our current enforcement of immigration policy based on quotas leads to the separation of families and civil rights violations. This is the federal government and these are agents who took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Is this the America contemplated by our founders?”

June White-Dillard, president of the Prince George’s County NAACP said, “Street raids to meet quotas are unbelievable. It will take time to reverse the Bush years and the abridgement of our constitutional rights but I look forward to standing with CASA de Maryland and my Latino and immigrant brothers and sisters to get it done.”

CASA has requested a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to appeal for an end to the dragnet raids.

CASA brought hundreds of immigrant workers and their families to Annapolis, the state capital, Feb. 23, to oppose the anti-immigrant campaigns and to fight for human and workers’ rights. They gathered in a Senate hearing room to tell Senators and their staff of widespread “wage theft” by unscrupulous employers. One worker told the hearing he and other members of his crew toiled at a construction job for three days. “At the end of the three days, our wages were denied us. We never recovered the money. Many times this has happened and workers have lost thousands of dollars,” he said.

Later, another worker told of being chiseled by a contractor installing fiber optic cables for Verizon. CASA, he said, took up their grievance and won restitution of the stolen pay.

State Sen. Melvin Stukes told the witnesses, “You’re looking at a person who has gone through some of the same exact things you have gone through, worked in Baltimore for three dollars a day… Anyone in this room understands that struggle. I will do anything I legally can to help you in your endeavors.”

CASA is urging the legislature to strengthen enforcement including forcing employers to pay a worker three times the unpaid wages. Criminal fines should be increased to $2,500 for the first violation and $5,000 for subsequent violations of the wage law, a CASA handout states.

Witnesses also urged the lawmakers to resist the federal REAL ID that could be used to deny drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. Madeleine, a high school student urged the Maryland General Assembly to enact pending bills to make the sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition at Maryland universities. The grassroots lobbysists also urged the lawmakers to oppose immigrant-bashing campaigns that would deny public benefits to all non-citizens.

Later the crowd rallied in front of the Maryland State House holding placards that proclaimed, “Stop the Raids,” “College For All” and “Drivers Licenses for Safety.” CASA’s Torres led the crowd in chanting, “Si se puede” “yes we can.” He told the crowd, “We’re here fighting for civil rights for all, for the African American community, the Latino community.”

Guy Djoken, president of the Frederick County NAACP said, “Together we are going to win. For a long time, they have tried to divide us, Black against Hispanic. But when Dr. King fought for civil rights, everyone walked through that open door. We come together as one people, one more time.”

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