|ICE picked up residents from the top floor of this building in Fairmont Gardens.|
Residents of the Fairmont Gardens apartments in Annandale are living in fear after two raids last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. According to a witness, at least five people were taken away by ICE agents from two buildings, at 4136 and 4202 Wadsworth Court.
“People are just terrified. Everyone is staying inside with doors locked,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, an immigration attorney with the Falls Church office of the Legal Aid Justice Center.
The raid was part of a multi-state action by ICE that also targeted apartment complexes with many immigrant residents on the Route 1 corridor. There haven’t been any recent raids at apartments in the Culmore area of Bailey’s Crossroads, but that could happen any day.
Some of the people sought by ICE in the Fairmont Gardens raids had prior deportation orders against them and hadn’t shown up for court dates, most likely because they didn’t know or were afraid to go to court, Sandoval-Moshenberg said. Those people were probably sent to a detention center three or four hours away as a first step to deportation.
Other people picked up by ICE who are undocumented but don’t have prior deportation orders have the right to go before a judge and plead their case.
According to Sandoval-Moshenberg, the ICE agents “were looking for specific individuals but took others who had the bad luck of being in the same apartment.” That practice, known as “collateral arrest,” was a big problem during the Bush Administration, when ICE had monthly arrest quotas to fill and it didn’t matter if the person they arrested was the one who had been targeted or not.
That led to “huge civil rights violations in 2006-07,” including home invasions without a warrant and sweeps at 7-11s with ICE picking up anyone who looked Hispanic, Sandoval-Moshenberg said. The Obama Administration largely stopped collateral arrests, although there were a few incidents. Now the collateral arrest policy seems to be back in force.
The Fairfax County Police Department was not in on the ICE raids at Fairmont Gardens. The FCPD tends not to get involved with ICE except if they need help tracking down a gang leader or other known criminal, Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
While ICE claims they are targeting undocumented people with criminal backgrounds, they do not distinguish between major crimes like murder and relatively minor ones like DWI or marijuana possession that happened a decade ago, he said.
Whether ICE should have the authority to raid peoples’ homes can be debated, he said, but “when ICE picks up people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s not a legitimate law enforcement activity. That has the effect of terrorizing the community.”