Records show ICE activity on rise in Champaign County since 2016

Records show ICE activity on rise in Champaign County since 2016

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Over the past several months, local protesters have decried Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in the area that has led to multiple arrests and intensified the fears of many undocumented people living here.

But the agency's activity hasn't been confined just to the past few months. Champaign County has been a frequent stop for ICE agents in the past two years, with agents making stops at 70 addresses in Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet and Rantoul during that time, according to records obtained by The News-Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act.

Champaign County METCAD records show the dates, times and addresses of where ICE agents have operated since the practice of notifying local authorities in advance began in January 2013.

The agency's cooperation started after Rantoul police received a missing-person report, only to learn later that the person had been taken by ICE. Officials said that asking ICE to call ahead of their visits would help prevent something like that from happening again.

METCAD records since mid-2016 show that agents have targeted majority-Hispanic neighborhoods and workplaces staffed by immigrants, as well as making frequent visits to the county courthouse and satellite jail. All are places ICE is authorized to work.

— In the second half of 2016, ICE agents made 15 stops in Rantoul, 13 in Urbana and five in Champaign.

— Last year was busier. Of the 54 addresses visited in 2017, 39 occurred in four months (February, April, June, August). Stops at the satellite jail and county courthouse also increased, from three in the latter part of 2016 to 14 in 2017.

— Through the first six months of 2018, METCAD logged 10 calls from ICE, most recently before two May visits to the satellite jail and an April 27 stop at Rantoul Foods.

ICE was most active in Ivanhoe Estates, the north Urbana trailer park where many immigrant families live. Records show that two streets — Richard Drive (seven) and Ivanhoe Drive (three) — were visited by agents a combined 10 times between Dec. 14, 2016, and Oct. 25, 2017.

Richard Drive was the most visited street in the county. Hobson Drive in Rantoul, which leads to the Abbott Acres Apartments, was the second-most visited.

Agents have also alerted METCAD on their way to area businesses, including Rantoul Foods (twice), Rantoul's Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors (twice), Urbana's Siam Terrace restaurant (once) and Lincoln Square Mall (once).

The visits are detailed on the map below:

Many of ICE's area visits coincide with arrests tracked by local activist groups.

Leaders of the nonprofit Bend the Arc: CU say that in recent weeks, a father of three with a fourth child on the way was picked up by ICE agents after completing probation for a misdemeanor DUI. Another father was picked up two weeks ago, they said, just months after an eight-year resident of Champaign-Urbana was taken away as he arrived for work at Siam Terrace in March.

No help with 'detainers'

Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, ICE is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, with more than 20,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $6 billion.

Its self-stated responsibilities include enforcing "the nation's immigration laws in a fair and effective manner." According to the "Enforcement and Removal Operations" overview on its website, ICE "identifies and apprehends removable aliens, detains these individuals when necessary and removes illegal aliens from the United States."

The agency is responsible for notifying county officials in advance of a stop in the area, but there's little anyone at the local level is authorized to do to prevent what comes next. The agency's critics point out that conflicting court orders allow ICE agents to get different sets of information from different departments.

For example, Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh has said he won't honor "detainers," the term for written requests that a local jail or other law enforcement agency keep an individual for an additional 48 hours after their release date to allow ICE agents extra time to decide whether to take that person into federal custody.

Walsh bases that stance on a decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals directing him not to. However, he's quick to add, ICE is "free to pick someone up when they leave jail," based on "out" dates the sheriff's department itself gives ICE when asked for them.

"We go by what the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says," Walsh said. "It's a requirement that they have to have a judge-signed court order, not a detainer signed by an immigration officer. But if they have an arrest warrant, we'll honor it like any other arrest warrant."

Rules for probation

ICE also has access to reports of foreign-born people who travel through the county's probation system.

"We are required to notify ICE of all foreign-born adult offenders," said Mike Williams, director of the Champaign County Probation and Court Services. "And we follow the court's order."

Williams said his office must complete a "foreign national status inquiry/disposition" form within seven days after a person has been convicted and has either been sentenced to probation or is awaiting sentencing.

The form includes information such as: conviction date, next appointment with the probation office, address, employer, offense and alien registration number.

It's access to that much information that has so many immigrants worried, said Lucia Maldonado, a local advocate for Latino families.

Maldonado said she has been working with a woman whose husband was taken by ICE and now owes between $6,000 and $8,000 in court and lawyer fees. Maldonado said she's been scrambling to help her get the money.

She runs the Facebook group C-U Amigos, where she writes about immigration policy and gives advice as the Hispanic community's de-facto point person.

"What I found was that posting when ICE is here just causes panic," she said. "Having a plan of action is more important."

In a post this month, she outlined ways families can stay prepared in case a boyfriend, husband or partner is taken. They include:

— Have access to a bank account. Many of the people recently arrested now owe between $4,000 and $11,000.

— Have your passports handy.

— Keep a list of organizations or persons that can write a letter of support.

— Pick a lawyer and make sure they have all your information.

— Make sure you have enough money saved to cover costs in case the home's breadwinner is taken.

"With the current situation, people with any sort of criminal record need to take responsibility and prepare for these kinds of emergencies," she said. "It'll make things a little more easy for your partners and children."