Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ICE Presence at Club Raid Raises Questions

This is, oddly I think, not that big a news story in Kansas City right now. It appears that in the course of a legitimate police raid on a problem night club, ICE officers requested identification and cited persons for immigration violations who were not themselves suspects in a crime. Here we see an “approach” by law enforcement that seems to go even beyond the Arizona statute, ie., Hispanics merely in proximity to people suspected of other offenses are asked for their papers. This in a city whose Council officially rejected the Arizona statute and whose police force has previously rejected such tactics.

The presence of ICE raises a lot of questions and I’m grateful to our associate editor for putting together this story quickly on our production day. He gets a lot of information that’s been ignored elsewhere. We’ll certainly have follow-up. From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Nightclub raid raises question about police policy on immigration

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — A joint raid at a trouble spot nightclub on the city’s West Side has threatened efforts to build trust between the Latino community and the Kansas City Police Department.

The raid, which occurred shortly before midnight Oct. 24 at the Club Oasis, 2845 Southwest Blvd., was conducted jointly between officers of the police department’s vice squad and agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to police, at least 100 persons were inside the club. Police arrested or cited at least 20 people, including a security guard allegedly in possession of cocaine, and three minors under the legal drinking age.

News reports said that ICE agents arrested 15 people for being in the United States in violation of U.S. immigration codes. But the number of people cited at the club may be much higher.

Jude Huntz, director of the Diocesan Human Rights Office, said that attorneys for Legal Aid of Western Missouri told him that 20 people cited by ICE at the club had sought their help on Oct. 25, the day after the raid.

Private immigration attorney Angela Ferguson told the Catholic Key about 10 people cited in the raid had sought her help.

Ferguson said that those cited were ordered to report to U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Immigration Services office near Kansas City International Airport on Oct. 26.

“Those are just the people seeking legal help,” Huntz said. “How many more didn’t seek help or are choosing to flee the area? That’s what we don’t know.”

Club Oasis has been the source of numerous complaints to police concerning alleged drug trafficking, underage drinking and shootings, including a reported Oct. 10 parking lot gun battle involving a vehicle theft.

Ferguson said the people she spoke with told her that ICE agents and Kansas City police entered the club together shortly before midnight and ordered all people inside to divide themselves in two groups.

“They announced that people with documents (proving legal residency) should go to one side of the room, and people without documents should go to the other side,” she said.

Ferguson said she had no issues with police raiding Club Oasis when they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is taking place. But she also noted that the vast majority of citations and arrests at the raid were not for violations of criminal law, but for violations of civil immigration code.

“There is a real concern with that club, and we want police to catch criminals,” Ferguson said. “But there were many people there who were detained and apprehended for not having papers.”

Ferguson also questioned why Kansas City police were accompanied by ICE agents on this particular raid.

“I’m guessing it was because it was a Latino joint. Why else would Immigration be there?” she said.

That raised concerns for her of what other places that draw crowds of Latino people might be targeted.

“What if they started going to churches after Mass? What if Immigration started showing up at soccer games? What kind of community do we want to live in?” she said.

Christian Brother Jim Krause, pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Kansas City’s northeast neighborhood which also has a large Latino population, said that the parish’s Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) organizing network has worked for several years to build trust between the community and the Kansas City Police Department, particularly the East Patrol Division.

Brother Jim noted that the Club Oasis raid occurred in the department’s West Patrol Division, but that CCO would be collecting more information in meetings with top police officials.

He also noted that Police Chief James Corwin said at a CCO action in June that it is the policy of his department not to detain people solely on immigration charges unless there was a felony crime involved.

Brother Jim said that assurance was important as a way to encourage victims to report crimes, regardless of the victims’ immigration status.

“People who come from the Third World do not have a good record of cooperation with police,” Brother Jim said. “They are the victims of all kinds of crime because they are afraid to talk to police for fear that they will be reported to Immigration. The criminals know that, and they are emboldened by it.”

Brother Jim said CCO will be working to prevent the Club Oasis raid from destroying the trust that has been building with the department’s East Patrol Division, which he said has been exemplary.

“They have said they will not call ICE on people unless there is criminal activity involved,” he said. “If that is the policy, then that is the policy. What we would like to see in the West Patrol Division is if they would like to follow the lead of the East Patrol Division.”

Huntz, however, also questioned the presence of ICE agents in the Club Oasis raid.

“The club in question has had lots of trouble and those are legitimate police matters,” Huntz said. “Why ICE had to be brought in is not clear to me.”

Huntz also said that the raid underscores how broken the U.S. immigration system is and why the U.S. bishops are pressing hard for comprehensive reform.

“The larger issue is that most people enter the country legally and they are still here on expired visas because they lost their jobs or they couldn’t keep up with the expense of keeping up their visas,” he said.

“We need to find a way to keep them in the process (toward legal residency and citizenship) without the threat of deportation hanging over their heads,” he said.