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Immigrant round-up reports unfounded

By RODGER NICHOLS

The Dalles Chronicle

and RAELYNN RICARTE

Hood River News

April 29, 2006

Massive INS raids, sweeping through orchards, hauling away people by the busload? Agents checking IDs at banks, pulling people over on Interstate 84?

Not true, not true and not true.

That’s the official word from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), not to be confused with the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, which ended in 2003.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Hood River City Police Department, Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, and county 9-1-1 Dispatch Center confirmed that no ICE sweep was underway.

“The simple fact is that they are not taking any enforcement action here at this time,” said Jerry Brown, chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office.

He said ICE has been assisting the local agency in an investigation involving fraudulent use of a social security number. Brown asked for help after a Hood River citizen reported that the IRS had kicked back his tax return because the social security number had been submitted by 18 different parties, one from Alabama and the other 17 residing in Oregon.

“Rumors like this have been widely reported all over the United States,” said Virginia Kice, Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson for ICE. “We have been seeking to dispel stories that are, on investigation, baseless.”

Kice said she’d been answering media inquiries about rumored raids and intimidation from Oregon, Nevada, Northern California, Utah and elsewhere in the 8-state western region.

The situation has reached the point where the agency has issued what it labels a “raid rumor statement.” That statement reads:

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for investigating a wide range of domestic and international activities arising from the movement of people and goods in violation of the nation’s immigration and custom laws.

“ICE agents conduct operations every day in locations around the country as part of their efforts to protect the nation and uphold public safety. These operations are not random sweeps, but carefully-planned enforcement actions that result from investigative leads and intelligence.”

Kice said the rumors may have stemmed from news about a “nationwide worksite enforcement action” conducted on April 19 against IFCO Systems North America, Inc., the largest pallet services company in the United States headquartered in Houston, Texas.

As part of that activity, an official statement said, ICE agents conducted “consent” searches or executed criminal search warrants at more than 40 IFCO plants and related locations in 26 states that resulted in the apprehension of approximately 1,187 illegal alien IFCO employees.

That total included 21 apprehended in Portland.

The enforcement action was part of an investigation that began more than a year ago, the statement said.

Recent sharp political divisions over immigration policy, massive, televised demonstrations by immigrant groups, and the approach of May 1, a day targeted by some immigration rights groups for a potential labor boycott, may help create a climate of uncertainty that fuels the spread of such rumors.

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