Some Hermiston residents are still on high alert following sightings of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the area this weekend.
Last Friday, President Trump reported that ICE was planning raids across the country to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants.
“It’s a major operation. So if the word gets out, it gets out. It starts on Sunday,” Trump told reporters. “And they’re going to take people out, and they’re going to bring them back to their countries, or they’re going to take criminals out — put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from.”
Since then, CNN reported people in major cities across America have been unable to confirm many reports of ICE activity. No details about arrests are currently available, but Hermiston residents reported sightings on social media.
A sergeant from the Hermiston Police Department who spoke with an ICE officer was led to believe that there was a small operation occurring in the Eastern Washington and Oregon area, HPD Chief Jason Edmiston said.
“We cannot enforce immigration law and will not. Our involvement will only be to assist an officer that is in need of immediate help due to distress. This is something we would do for [any] entity or agency,” he stated.
Zaira Sanchez, external communications director with the grassroots organization Raices in Umatilla County, said the organization had received reports of sightings in the area last week and this weekend.
She said on Monday or Tuesday, ICE officers had been spotted questioning people in Hermiston.
“That invoked a lot of fear,” Sanchez said. “People were quick to check in on family members in vans that day.”
Sanchez said that the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition hotline had received eight calls from the Hermiston area recently. The hotline (888-622-1510) takes reports of sightings and interactions with ICE in Oregon, and has volunteers trained to verify those sightings and provide resource referrals.
“ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” stated Tanya Roman, a public affairs officer for ICE. “ICE’s enforcement actions are targeted and lead-driven. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy.”
Sanchez said Raices hopes to form a rapid response team for immigration rights, but that the organization currently lacks the capacity.