STOCKTON — As news outlets in the region began reporting on enforcement efforts by federal immigration agents, organizers in Stockton worked to tame fears.
Luis Magaña, a longtime farm labor activist, said in the last week he’s been fielding calls and messages from people concerned of rumored immigration checkpoints in the city, all which seem to be untrue, he added.
People were reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were on West Lane, Alpine Avenue, and El Dorado Street, but Magaña, whose office is off of El Dorado Street and March Lane, said he checked the areas and found nothing to show immigration agents were detaining undocumented immigrants.
There’s been a lot more panic recently, he said. There’s a lot of fear and rumors.
“We’ve arrived at this point of terrorizing the community,” Magaña said. “The rumors cause more harm than the reality.”
ICE on Tuesday said agents had arrested some 232 people suspected of violating immigration laws during a three-day sweep across Northern California. The agency focused on San Francisco and Oakland, which are established sanctuary cities.
A Mexican man living in Stockton, who had a previous conviction for lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14, was among those arrested during the recent sweeps, according to ICE.
Magaña said ICE has routinely made arrests in Stockton throughout the years, but people are now more closely following the issue, which may contribute to the uptick in reports of raids. So while there are no raids or checkpoints, agents do come to Stockton to detain people who have deportation orders or criminal convictions, he said.
He said he’s not sure why Stockton isn’t seeing the same level of enforcement as the Bay Area, but opined that it may be because Stockton is not a sanctuary city.
ICE acting Deputy Director Thomas Homan said sanctuary cities “shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety. Because these jurisdictions prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, they also force ICE officers to make more arrests out in the community, which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public.”
“While the vast majority of cities in America do cooperate with ICE, others like San Francisco and Oakland force ICE to focus additional resources to conduct at-large arrests in the community, putting officers, the general public and aliens at greater risk and increasing the incidents of collateral arrests.”
According to ICE, immigration officers arrested 20,201 undocumented immigrants throughout California during the fiscal year 2017.
The Rev. Curtis Smith, chapter director for Faith in San Joaquin, said he’s aware of the arrests happening outside of the county, but hasn’t been able to verify that any of the rumored raids in Stockton happened.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on and be aware,” he said.
Smith said ICE often uses the term “police” during arrests, which can also be the reason people are on alert anytime they see law enforcement officers, fearing they can’t trust police, he added.
“There’s a lot of fear, and it’s definitely valid because of the situation,” he said. “It makes sense to me that people are thinking when they see police that they’re connected (to ICE).”
Magaña said a group of volunteers will be trained on Monday to verify any claims of immigration raids in order to dispel rumors.
“We want the community to have less fear and regain normalcy,” he said. “But this is not the end, this will continue.”
Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.