Over five hours and six adresses, Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Oakland came up empty-handed Tuesday trying to track down illegal immigrants, says the San Francisco Chronicle. The agency’s fugitive operations teams have arrested 40,000 people nationwide since Oct. 1 – more than double last year’s figure. Stung by criticism of the way it conducts its enforcement operations, the agency invited reporters along on Tuesday’s operation, a first for Northern California. “You can see these guys are nice guys,” said an agent.
Among the charges leveled by immigrant advocates is that while agents carry warrants for specific individuals who have absconded from deportation, they often sweep up other undocumented immigrants who happen to be at a targeted home or in the area. Such collateral arrests have accounted for slightly less than half the people caught by fugitive operations teams in Northern California this year. Said one official: “We have our priorities: national security and criminal cases. But my officers are federal agents; they enforce immigration law. If they see someone, they have to take action.” “Those law enforcement actions are long overdue,” said Yeh Ling-Ling of the Oakland-based Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America. “But those actions alone are not going to seriously curb illegal immigration if leaders of both parties are promising amnesty.”