U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they arrested a Guatemalan man in Denver near Federal Boulevard on Thursday morning, sparking concern among immigrants’ rights groups who believed the arrest was part of a larger ICE raid.
ICE Central Region spokesman Carl Rusnok said in email the arrest happened during a “routine targeted enforcement operation” by deportation officers who were looking for an undocumented man targeted for arrest.
After stopping a van with a person who matched this man’s description at about 6 a.m. on Thursday, the officers found a different man who had been identified as an ICE fugitive while questioning the van’s occupants.
Rusnok said this man had received a final removal order from a federal immigration judge in 2016. He was arrested without incident near Federal Boulevard and Vassar Avenue, but the man originally sought by ICE wasn’t located. Four other occupants of the car were released at the scene.
The Colorado Rapid Response Network, which is made up of several immigrant advocacy groups, said in a release Thursday afternoon that a witness had alerted them about ICE enforcement activity near the Vassar Arms Apartments. The apartments are located near Federal Boulevard and Vassar Avenue, though Rusnok didn’t specify a location beyond the cross-streets.
Ana Rodriguez, community organizer at Colorado People’s Alliance, said she’s skeptical that only one person was arrested by ICE on Thursday.
Rodriguez said the witness who notified them was driving to work when they saw several vans and law enforcement agents with dark blue and black uniforms with “POLICE ICE” on them.
The witness told Colorado Rapid Response Network they also saw marked police cruisers, but they were not able to identify what agency they were with. The network has a 24-hour hotline for witnesses or people impacted by enforcement activity.
“We are disgusted by this attack on families in South Denver and recognize that this is part of a larger effort to terrify our immigrant communities,” Rodriguez said in a release. “We stand with the families who were targeted today and urge any impacted person to call us so we can immediately connect them to support and resources.”
ICE says that they “frequently” encounter other undocumented residents when conducting targeted enforcement operations.
But these undocumented persons are “evaluated on a case-by-case basis for enforcement action,” according to ICE.
Rodriguez said this is unfair. She said ICE typically conducts the enforcement operations with one person in mind, but ends up with more people who happen to be with the person ICE was after.
“When they describe it, it’s not just limited to the one person,” Rodriguez said. “Anybody is really fair game.”
Colorado Rapid Response Network was planning on handing out flyers and talking to neighbors near the apartment complex Thursday evening to get additional info.
Two apartment complex residents who said they had just arrived at their home Thursday said they weren’t aware of any ICE activity in their complex.
A woman who was inside a room at the apartment complex labeled “Manager” said, “nobody saw this happen,” and that it was “too early in the morning” when asked if she had any information, she closed the door. She did not provide her name.
Five people living near the apartment complex said they didn’t see or hear anything on Thursday, though most said they weren’t up at the time the arrest took place. Most of them said the neighborhood is usually busy with activity.
Junior Reyes, who’s lived across from the apartment complex for five years, said there had been law enforcement activity on the street last week. Reyes’ neighbor, Ernestine Rodriguez, said she had seen a heavy police presence last week as well. She said she believes the majority of the neighborhood was made up of immigrant residences.
“They’re hardworking people,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t understand why they bother them.”
Denver Police spokesman Jay Casillas said there were no records of a call for service to assist ICE at the Vassar Arms Apartments address.