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|Sujet: Federal agents accused of roughing up immigrants during Homestead raid Lun 15 Déc 2008 - 11:45|| |
Posted on Wed, Dec. 10, 2008
Federal agents accused of roughing up immigrants during Homestead raid
BY TRENTON DANIEL
A coalition of immigrant advocates is demanding that the U.S. attorney's office in Miami investigate the arrests of dozens of Mexicans and Guatemalans taken into custody as undocumented immigrants last month during a raid targeting a separate group of alleged sex-trade traffickers in Homestead.
The advocates, along with local community leaders, say the 42 Mexicans and 35 Guatemalans -- who were not involved in sex-trade trafficking -- were rounded up Nov. 19 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. They accused ICE agents of using excessive force when they took the foreign nationals into custody.
Nicole Navas, an ICE spokeswoman, denied allegations of agent misconduct. ''As is routine protocol, all allegations have been forwarded to the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for their independent review,'' Navas wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.
She said agents conducting the raids also came across undocumented immigrants and, under the law, were obligated to arrest them.
''This is a mandate we take seriously and cannot and will not turn a blind eye to illegal activity,'' Navas added.
A spokeswoman from the U.S. attorney's office said the allegations were forwarded to the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.
The accusations came at a news conference held Tuesday in Homestead, where immigration advocates called for a high-level investigation into the Nov. 19 raids carried out by ICE, a federal agency charged with enforcing immigration and customs laws and arresting undocumented immigrants.
Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount!, said a Guatemalan woman saw agents beat her husband and throw him on the floor in front of their 4-year-old daughter. ''She's been traumatized by the whole situation,'' Fried said.
ICE conducted an investigation into more than a dozen brothels and stash houses in Palm Beach and Broward counties where immigrant women were forced into prostitution. ICE agents reported arresting four suspected sex traffickers and rescuing nine trafficking victims who had been forced into prostitution in brothels.
On a separate issue, immigrant advocates pressed the Bush administration to reverse its decision to resume the deportation of Haitian immigrants. They called the move ``supremely inhumane and damaging.''
Reps. Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek and Robert Wexler -- all Democrats from South Florda -- wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expressing anger and frustration about the decision.
They say Haiti is ill-equipped to receive Haitian nationals at a time when the island nation is struggling to recover from a string of storms from this summer.
''This decision only complicates the Haitian government's ongoing recovery effort,'' Meek said in a statement.
''It is outright despicable that ICE, without prior warning or adequate explanation, has chosen to resume deportations to Haiti, a country still struggling to recover from the compounding national crises it suffered over the course of this past year,'' Hastings said.
Republican lawmakers Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also sent a letter last Friday to the White House expressing their opposition to the deportation of Haitian immigrants.
''The situation in Haiti remains dire,'' they wrote. ``Under these circumstances, we feel it is clear that sending Haitian nationals back to Haiti is both inhumane and unsafe.''
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