In the early hours Monday, a dozen immigration agents gathered outside a Starbucks near Los Angeles. For the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, it was supposed to be business as usual. Now, they greet one another with elbows instead of handshakes, and the Starbucks was only grab and go. The ICE agents were about to spend the day trying to arrest targets after the California governor and L.A. mayor ordered people to ramp up social distancing over coronavirus. The agents had respirator masks in their vehicles, just in case, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Immigrant advocates have criticized ICE for its continued enforcement operations. More than 45 organizations this week called on the Department of Homeland Security to suspend such actions. ICE said it would take precautions, given the new reality. The arrests would go on. “We’re out here trying to protect the public by getting these criminal aliens off the street and out of our communities,” said ICE official David Marin. “Asking us to stop doing that basically gives those criminals another opportunity to maybe commit more crimes, to create more victims.” In the parking lot, the agents stood in a loose circle almost six feet apart as they reviewed the target list. That morning, they were searching for four people, including two registered sex offenders. Officers had been issued the protective masks. In his car, Marin kept packets of hand sanitizer wipes, which he’d used that morning to wipe down his steering wheel, his keys and his hands after pumping gas. Around 5 a.m., the officers waited outside Pedro Castillo Bravo’s home. He was convicted in 2015 for DUI causing bodily injury and hit and run. As Castillo prepared to leave, an officer knocked on his car door and took him into custody.