Increase in border patrol in Southwest Detroit causes concern for community

Michigan and Ohio has removed 1,475 individuals so far in the fiscal year of 201

DETROIT – The immigration debate has had an impact on Southwest Detroit, a community with a large immigrant population. 

A spokesperson from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, in Detroit, said their enforcement resources are always focused on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, their efforts have also shifted to anyone who is without documentation. 

The ICE spokesperson, Khaalid Walls, said "As Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and if found removable by final order, removal from the United States." 

Some residents in Southwest Detroit describe an increase in "border patrol" efforts and said the current political climate has caused a stir in the area. 

Walls said ICE Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio has removed 1,475 individuals so far in the fiscal year of 2017 which covers October 1, 2016 to April 8, 2017. The number of deported individuals is already more than 70 percent of total deportations for the fiscal year of 2016, which was 2,056. Walls said it's safe to say the number of deportations for 2017 will surpass 2016 in its entirety. 

Of the total removals for the fiscal year 2017, 759 were convicted criminals, and 716 were "other priorities" compared to 1,331 convicted criminals deported in fiscal year 2016 and 725 "other priorities." 

Therefore, undocumented residents like two sisters, 17 and 20 years old, who didn't want to be identified, said they are afraid to leave their houses. 

"I have a lot of fear because all of our family is here and if I return there, I will be practically by myself. I believe being separated from my family would be sad and depressing because your family gives you motivation to live and they're the help you need," said one of the sisters,17, in Spanish. 

"From day to day, you wake up you go to school you go to work, and you do what you gotta do, but at the same time the whole time you're praying that you don't get stopped by a cop, that you don't get pulled over by immigration. There's always that feeling that you are like everyone else, but at the same time you're not so that holds you back from being like everybody else," the 20-year-old sister said. 

The sisters are from El Salvador. 

"I got adapted and used to everything over here [in Southwest Detroit]. I don't picture myself at home [El Salvador] because I know this [Southwest Detroit] is home," said the 17-year-old sister. 

The sisters are not the only ones feeling the pressure, and the undocumented communities' reluctance to venture out has impacted businesses. 

Alvaro Padilla is the owner of El Nacimiento, located at 7400 Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit. 

"This is the real authentic. You find the real tacos you find on the street corner in Mexico," Padilla said. 

The restaurant has been a part of the community for years. 

"We take pride in what we're doing. We make sure everything is as fresh as possible and clean as possible. We're really united in Southwest and I think that's what makes it great," he said. 

However, he said business has recently been impacted. 

"There's been changes. I know the community has been moving around and people are coming in and people are leaving the community. People don't want to come out as much because they're afraid and it's very terrible, and it's a chain reaction because if people don't come out, businesses don't do well," said Padilla. 

The President of Detroit Cristo Rey, Michael Khoury, said their school administrators have had to have more serious talks about immigration as well. 

"We have a lot of challenges at Detroit Cristo Rey as we prepare our kids for college and I think this is just another one of those issues that we tackle. Certainly when we talk to some of our peers in the suburbs, it's a conversation they're just not having," said Khoury. 

Detroit Cristo Rey is part of a network of 32 Cristo Rey schools around the nation. The mission is to provide a Catholic, college-prep education to students who normally could not afford to go to a private school. All of the students work jobs and 2/3 of the students come from Southwest Detroit. 

All of their students work jobs so they are all documented, but some of their parents may not be. 

"We just want to be prepared so we know what our responsibilities and what the rights were as a school for both our students and our staff so we have a policy on what would happen if we would have an unexpected visitor. We would just want to make sure we understand the purpose of their visit, understand how were protecting the rights of our students," said Khoury. 

Khoury said their school has a great relationship with law enforcement and it's his experience that "they do not come to schools." 

However, they have made sure to have a protocol in place as a precaution. 

"Whether anyone would come to the school from law enforcement, we would want to know why they're here, if they had a warrant and if that was a search warrant, we would want to know what it was for and then help them conform to what was in the warrant, but we would not open our school to just a walk through inspection," said Khoury. 

The school hosted a seminar for parents. 

"We hosted a know your rights regarding immigration for our families and those in the neighborhood. We just want to make sure everyone understands what their rights are as a person living in the United States," Khoury said. 

Khaalid Walls from ICE said schools are considered a "sensitive location." 

The statement said " the ICE sensitive locations policy, which remains in effect, provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and requires either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.  DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation." 

Diego Navarette and Angela Martinez are feeling a different kind of pressure in Southwest Detroit. They are undocumented and only protected from deportation by DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June of 2012. It's a program providing work permits and reprieve from deportation to people who arrived in the United States under the age of 16 who also meet other requirements. DACA has been recently threatened by the Trump administration. 

"I grew up in fear like a lot of other undocumented youth, never really knowing when you're going to get deported or your family torn apart. That's always been a very real fear that I never realized other people didn't go through. After I got DACA and my first job with Congress of Communities, I also realized college was in my reach," said Navarette. 

Navarette has lived in the United States since he was two years old and lives in Southwest Detroit now. He has experienced a shift in the community feel. 

"Being close to the border, you do see a lot of border patrol driving around. There's fear of the residents not really knowing the laws of what they can do and definitely recently there's been more of a banning together, and ensuring that the residents of Southwest Detroit aren't afraid," he said. 

Angela Martinez has been in the United States since she was six years old and has also seen a difference in the community. 

"There has been more fear in my community. There's group chats of people warning each other there's this type of immigration here or border patrol in this area. It's very upsetting especially since it's a really big immigrant community," she said.

Martinez said her mother is also fearful. 

"Even going downtown is something she's a little worried about. She doesn't tend to go downtown. She doesn't go anywhere far unless it's me driving," she said. 

Navarette is attending Harvard in the fall while Martinez is attending the University of Michigan. Both are part of the Congress of Communities' youth council, which is a group providing leadership and facilitating collaboration of residents, youth and stakeholders for the community. 

The two refuse to live in fear and have been spreading awareness about rights throughout the community through the youth council. 

"Organizations like Congress of Communities have helped in making sure people know their rights and what to do if certain things happen, but still I feel there's lots of people who don't know what they can do or what their rights are even if they're undocumented," Navarette said. 

"It feels powerful to be undocumented and be able to help my community. I think the best response is showing people your degree and showing them you're successful. You're just proving them wrong," said Martinez. 

The Executive Director of Congress of Communities, Maria Salinas, said the Cinco de Mayo parade this year is an example of how the community is being impacted by fear of deportation in Southwest Detroit. 

"I always tell people this is when our people need to be counted is the Cinco de Mayo parade because at one point, it was close to 100,000 people that would come out possibly four or five years ago and it was consistent for years, but this year, I think they said it was probably less than 10,000 people," Salinas said. 

Salinas does a lot of community work through her organization and was born and raised in Detroit. She believes closing the borders and getting people documented could alleviate concern. 

"I'm a firm believer in we gotta get our people right. I do believe that we need to get our Mexican population, our undocumented population right, but the human rights, where does that lay? These individuals have been here, they pay taxes, they help build America so what do you do with this population that has been here for generations? I'm about yes let's close it up right now. We don't need to let nobody through. I feel that way right and I'm about them [undocumented citizens] really understanding the laws you know and getting it right so they don't have to live in fear," she said. 

Walls added that ICE enforcement actions are "targeted and lead driven," saying in a statement with examples: 

"ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately. Our operations are targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities. Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions. To that end, ICE's routine immigration enforcement actions are ongoing and we make arrests every day. Recent case examples include: 

20-year-old Honduran national arrested by ICE in April 2017. Under indictment in Washtenaw County Circuit Court for Criminal Sexual Conduct. 

42-year old Mexican national arrested by ICE in March 2017. Previous convictions for Driving Under the Influence, and Forceful Assault with a Dangerous Weapon.

33-year-old Mexican national arrested by ICE in February. Currently under federal indictment for felony charges of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition, falsely claiming lawful Permanent Resident status, misusing a Social Security number and possession of false identification documents

36-year old national of Mexico arrested in April by ICE. Has a previous conviction for offense of Felony Controlled Substance possession (cocaine). Had been previously removed from the U.S. and illegally re-entered

40-year-old Mexican national arrested in February by ICE. Has three federal convictions for illegal entry and re-entry and convictions for possession of cocaine and methamphetamine." 

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