LocationAlhambra , CA United States
Activists protested increased U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement employment audits in the San Gabriel Valley on Wednesday morning, saying that they amounted to raids designed to stoke fear among immigrant communities.
Around 30 protestors gathered at Northgate Gonzalez Markets in El Monte, a business that ICE was rumored to target for an I-9 audit, where officials from that organization check a company’s employment records to see that everybody is legally authorized to work there. They held signs with slogans like “ICE out of El Monte” and “Immigrants are welcome here.”
These audits have coincided with increased immigration enforcement from the federal government in the Los Angeles area and other parts of California. Operations in L.A. resulted in 212 arrests last week, an ICE press release said. Rumors circulated on social media on Tuesday warning of ICE visits in San Gabriel, Alhambra and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley.
ICE spokesperson Lori K. Haley would not confirm where they were conducting these I-9 inspections, but that it was within the agency’s rights to do so. “Despite state laws like AB450 that intend to interfere with federal immigration enforcement authorities, ICE expects employers and state officials to comply with federal law,” Haley wrote in an email. “Federal law established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all individuals they hire.”
Activists said that ICE’s actions went beyond this purpose. “They’re looking to create fear and confusion,” said Pedro Trujillo, 28, a community organizer with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “How is it that they’re making communities safer?”
California has been instrumental in opposing increased immigration enforcement from the Trump administration, most recently passing a sanctuary state law that limits local cooperation with federal immigration agents. As a result, Trump administration officials have warned about increased federal immigration enforcement in the state, as the Los Angeles Times mentioned in their report on last week’s ICE raids.
Trujillo of CHIRLA said that his organization knew of eight San Gabriel Valley businesses who had been notified of I-9 audits. Some of those businesses were in Alhambra, but he declined to name which ones.
“People need to see that we’re standing with them,” said Trujillo. “ICE needs to see that we’re watching them.”
San Gabriel City Councilmember Jason Pu said that operations like this showed why it was important that California cities terminate law enforcement agreements with ICE, a measure that he and his fellow San Gabriel City Council members did on Feb. 6.
“This was why it was important to terminate the MOU with ICE, so we are not inadvertently sharing information with ICE that would allow them to target businesses,” he said, adding that San Gabriel businesses like Mission Car Wash had also been targeted recently.
Updated on Feb. 21, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.