Law enforcement authorities in Santa Cruz, California are accusing federal agents after they used gang-related investigations to cover up their detaining of undocumented immigrants.
“I want to underscore that we would never have participated or cooperated in this operation if we had known that it included immigration enforcement,” stated Santa Cruz Police Chief in a news conference early this week. Santa Cruz has been an immigrant “sanctuary city” for some time.
“As a result of this betrayal of trust, we will be taking a long and hard look about whether we will cooperate with this federal agency in the future,” he stated. “We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust.”
Raids and Arrests
The raids had been launched on February 13 against MS-13, a local gang, which contains members hailing from El Salvador. Police were investigating this gang for many years. Vogel mentioned that 10 people suspected of the crime of extortion, murder, and drug trafficking were arrested in the cities of Santa Cruz, Daly and Watsonville.
“I want to very clear today, that the only reason members of the Santa Cruz police participated in this operation was to arrest violent gang members,” Vogel stated. DHS officials had “assured” police that their operation didn’t include an “immigration component,” he also mentioned.
Police say they later discovered that the DHS officials “acted outside of the scope of this operation and had detained and removed a number of individuals from various locations based upon their immigration status,” said Vogel, saying that those arrested “may or may not have been related” to their criminal investigation.
“The detention and the removal of these individuals based solely upon their immigration status flies in the face of the City Council resolution declaring Santa Cruz a place of trust and safety for all local immigrants,” Vogel stated during the press conference. “The community has an absolute right to be angry about this.”
A spokesman from the DHS denied accusations that police were left in the dark.
“Allegations that the agency secretly planned an immigration enforcement action in hopes there would be new political leadership that would allow for an alleged ‘secret’ operation to take place are completely false, reckless and disturbing,” noted a statement by James Schwab.