More than 30 people across Wisconsin were detained by ICE agents in immigration raids this weekend. That’s according to immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, which has been in touch with the families of those arrested.
Both the Madison Police and the Dane County Sheriff say the federal agency didn’t notify them of their presence, in violation of a longstanding agreement.
Milwaukee resident Giselle Vera was on her way to school when she got a text from her aunt that her uncle had been picked up by ICE agents.
She says the agents told her family they were police officers when they knocked on the door, but then revealed they were ICE agents and detained her uncle when he responded.
She says her cousins took her aunt, who is also undocumented, up to the attic to hide during the incident.
Vera said, “They don’t understand how dehumanizing it is to hear… he was undocumented and he had a couple of traffic infractions, because sadly, people who are undocumented have to drive without a license to go to work to provide for their family. They are being dehumanized and they are being treated like they don’t have the right to be here anymore when they are just trying to make a living.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and other local officials denounced the report of ICE agents identifying as police officers.
“We are going to continue to protest the use of the word ‘police’ in regards to ICE’s activities. They are federal agents who are using their authority to come into a local situation. And that deception is one of their many lies that they continue to perpetrate which is designed to create confusion and to worsen an already bad situation,” Soglin said.
MPD Assistant Chief Randy Gaber says the department made an agreement with ICE several years ago that the federal agency would warn MPD before they came to Madison for any type of operation, either large scale or individual detentions.
Up until this year, Gaber says that agreement was working well. But he says MPD didn’t receive any communication from ICE this time around.
Gaber said, “Even though we met with them four and a half years ago, it’s been working very well for us for the past several years. In fact, even as early as this year, I would still get contacted. They may be going for one particular person. We’d always ask, ‘what are you going after them for?’ Usually it’s a violent criminal offense. We do not assist them, we know that they’re here though. So, we’ve already started a dialogue with the higher chain of command, with ICE and with the Department of Homeland Security to try to reestablish that agreement that they will contact us before coming here.”
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney also says ICE left his office in the dark as well. “We know our communities better than any other law enforcement agencies, most certainly better than our federal law enforcement partners. And to enter our community armed with weapons, ballistic vests, raiding our community without notifying local law enforcement puts our community at risk.”
ICE will release the names of those arrested within the next 48 to 72 hours, according to Voces de la Frontera.
ICE spokesperson Nicole Alberico would not release the names, but said in an email to WORT that they conduct targeted immigration enforcement. But she says, while looking for those individuals, they’ll sometimes “encounter others who are also in violation of U.S. immigration laws.”
Multiple restaurants have been closed in relation to the arrests. Willy Street restaurant Eldorado Grill was closed last night after ICE agents arrested one of their cooks.
Capitol square bar and restaurant Tipsy Cow was closed today. A sign on the door said the closure was due to “current pressure on the Latino community.”
Madison officials are telling anyone affected by this recent wave of arrests to call Dane County Immigration Affairs Specialist Fabiola Hamdan at (608) 242-6260.
WORT’s Tony Castañeda contributed to this report.