As immigration agents continue to do the work they've always done in sanctuary cities on edge over the White House's policies, their everyday presence has been subjected to speculation and suspicion.
Last month, ICE agents spotted on Lake Street kicked off volleys of Facebook warnings of a crackdown that wasn't happening. On March 8, two arrests that occurred near a daycare fueled accusations that ICE was targeting peaceable parents.
In an email sent two days after the arrests, the Rev. Kevin McDonough of Incarnation Catholic Church in Minneapolis wrote, "We are just learning now that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement people (ICE) set up a net around a daycare on Lake Street Wednesday morning. Before 7 a.m. they grabbed enough undocumented people to fill two vans. We are trying to help one family now, and expect more."
"I am asking your help in spreading the word about this outrage. No reasonable law enforcement organization anticipates picking up dangerous criminals among the moms and dads who are dropping off their children at a day care so they can get to work in the morning."
ICE gave a very different version of events.
Spokesman Shawn Neudauer said a number of ICE agents were trying to find a known illegal immigrant with a criminal record near Lake Street when a random man backed his car into one of their parked vehicles. An ICE officer questioned the driver, who admitted he was in the United States illegally.
"It's a felony to lie to a federal officer, and a lot of people who are here illegally know that, and they know if they lie, that's a lot different than just getting picked up and deported," Neudauer said. "If you lie, you could potentially get sent to federal prison."
The officer arrested the man. But before he was taken away, the man asked the officer if he could pick up his passport and drop his keys off at a nearby house. The officer agreed, Neudauer said.
After officers parked in front of the house that the detainee pointed out, another car carrying a husand and wife and their 8-year-old son pulled up to the officers.
The wife, "without any provocation," started yelling at officers, while the husband "kept moving the gear shift from park to drive while the officers were on foot around the vehicle," Neudauer said.
After questioning the couple, officers arrested the husband and released the wife, who was several months pregnant. The husband was later found to have committed no crimes in the United States besides illegally entry, but he did omit having been deported once before.
"Honestly, had she had been cool about it, had she just said, 'Yeah, we're here to drop our son off at his daycare provider,' I think the officers probably would have just left. We don't do enforcement at sensitive locations like a daycare or a school or a church," Neudauer said.
He claimed the ICE officers were never made aware of the unmarked daycare nearby. The daycare is not licensed.
On Friday, the Rev. Kevin McDonough clarified his initial statements.
"We have learned more about the events of eight days ago," he wrote in an email. "It does not appear to be true (as I thought) that ICE 'put up a net' around a daycare.
"Rather, ICE personnel were seizing a person in a nearby home. Our friends had the bad luck to pull up very close to the ICE vehicle as [the husband] and his wife were getting ready to drop off a child at an informal babysitting-home. I understand that the ICE people had just had a tense confrontation in making the planned seizure. That tension seems to have carried over."
McDonough said that the stress of the arrest caused the woman to lose her baby.
The two people detained in this incident were among 86 arrested across five Midwestern states during a three-day sweep. Of those, 60 percent had criminal convictions in addition to being in the country illegally.
Twenty-six were arrested in Minnesota.
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