11 children were removed from Chaparral schools Monday by sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents.
There is really no comment to make about this.
28 Deported After Raid on Chaparral Schools
El Paso Times
September 15, 2007
Some Chaparral residents reportedly are staying home and not sending their children to school after a raid Monday by the Otero County (N.M.) Sheriff's Department ended with parents and children being deported to Mexico.
The Sheriff's Department conducted a federally funded enforcement operation Sept. 10 that resulted in the detention of 28 undocumented immigrants who were turned over to the Border Patrol.
Border Patrol officials said they received 16 undocumented immigrants from Otero County deputies. The difference in the statistics might be the number of children.
Art Ruiloba, spokesman for the Gadsden Independent School District, said 11 children were removed from Chaparral schools Monday by sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents. The parents or legal guardians were present. Six children were from elementary schools, four from middle school and one from high school.
"This operation has had somewhat of an impact on our schools," Ruiloba said.
"There's been some absenteeism due to that. We've had phone calls from parents who say, 'I'm not going to bring my child to school.' "
Schools do not ask for proof of citizenship when a child enrolls.
Martina Morales, an immigrant advocate with the Border Network for Human Rights, said Chaparral residents have reported an increase in what she said is police harassment during the past two months, culminating in Monday's raids. The raids and the rumors surrounding them are paralyzing the community, Morales said.
"There's a lot of fear right now," she said. "They don't go out."
Otero County sheriff's officials said the operations, funded under the 2-year-old federal Operation Stonegarden, started in May and will continue, unannounced.
Monday's activities yielded the highest number of referrals to the Border Patrol so far. Enforcement of immigration laws is a federal, not a state responsibility, but programs such as Stonegarden blur the line, critics said.
Stonegarden gives federal money to border counties for general border security operations.
Even though participating law-enforcement agencies say that finding undocumented immigrants is just a byproduct of crime fighting, Stonegarden operations regularly yield many more immigrant detentions than criminal arrests.
Monday, 12 deputies spent the day in Chaparral, patrolling and serving warrants. They detained 28 undocumented immigrants, issued 17 citations and arrested four people on warrants, including one who was an undocumented immigrant.
Morales claims that the sheriff's de puties use trickery to identify undocumented immigrants.
"They use any kind of pretext to go into people's homes," she said. "They say there were reports of loose animals or a dog barking. But that's not true. They said, 'You called 911.' In one case, a lady said she didn't call 911. She said, 'I don't even have a phone.' "
Lt. Leon Ledbetter of the Otero County Sheriff's Department denied that his officers use such tactics.
He said deputies learned the immigrants were undocumented through the course of regular police business, but added that they might have asked people about their immigration status.
"If folks don't have an ID, we'll ask them. Eventually, it may come to that, but we don't knock on doors and ask, 'Are you here illegally?' " he said.
Two Doña Ana County sheriff's de puties participated in Operation Stonegarden, Doña Ana County sheriff's officials said. The operation, consisting of traffic stops and checks on suspicious activity, will continue in Doña Ana until Nov. 29.
Chaparral, with a population of about 6,000, straddles the Otero-Doña Ana county line.
Monday's operation has caught the attention of some elected officials, such as New Mexico state Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana.
"My concern is that I don't want any children to be terrorized or separated from their families," she said.
Officials of the Mexican Consulate in El Paso said they were still trying Friday to figure out what to do with five siblings who stayed in Chaparral after their parents were deported to Mexico on Monday. Some of the children are U.S. citizens because they were born in the United States.
Some law enforcement officials, such as El Paso Police Chief Richard Wiles, have said they would do everything not to appear to be enforcing immigration laws.
Undocumented immigrants could become fearful of the police, and that would makes them less likely to call the police when they are in danger and less likely to cooperate with the police when they have information about a crime.
But Ledbetter of Otero County predicted that the panic ignited by Monday's operation would taper off and that "everything will be back to normal in the next week."
"I would hope that if a person needs us, they can call us and we'll help," he said. "If it's a call for service, we don't ask for citizenship. We can even take them to Alamogordo for court if they are witnesses, bypassing the Border Patrol checkpoints so we don't have to deal with the whole immigration issue. We do that for witnesses and victims."
Louie Gilot may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6131.
Thanks to Michael Olivas for passing this on.