By Patric Hedlund
Officials have confirmed that five people were seized Friday, Dec. 3 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Rumors alleging that 30 people were taken into custody appear to be untrue.
ICE officers with the Fugitive Operations Team based in Bakersfield “arrested five males in the Frazier Park area on December 3,” according to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. “The subjects included a Mexican national with an outstanding order of deportation. He was arrested at a residence where officers located two additional Mexican nationals who were also determined to be in the country illegally. One of the two had a prior DUI conviction. All three of these individuals have since been repatriated to Mexico,” she said.
The other subjects taken into custody, according to Kice, include a naturalized French citizen of Lebanese descent who overstayed his visa and a Syrian national who was determined to have entered the country illegally.
“Both of these men have been placed in removal proceedings and remain in ICE custody pending a hearing before an immigration judge,” Kice said.
The two still detained pending hearings are said to be in the Lerdo Corrections Facility. Both were employees of Sam’s Liquor Market in Lebec, friends have confirmed.
A family member said they have an attorney’s assistance and “they are being treated very well.”
In the early morning action that began at 4:30 a.m., the five were taken from Frazier Park and Lebec, according to a call that went through Kern County Sheriff’s dispatch. The Bakersfield ICE office originally told The Mountain Enterprise that the only way to officially confirm the number of people seized from the Mountain Communities would be through a Freedom of Information Act filing in Washington D.C. By Friday, Dec. 17 the ICE offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles began providing factual information.
Meanwhile, rumors were running wild in the affected neighborhoods of the Frazier Mountain Communities.
Rumors that mothers and fathers were seized, leaving children at the El Tejon School are not true, according to Principal Dena Kiouses. She said she is positive that reports circulating in the community of “agents in black uniforms visiting the school to tell children their parents are in custody and that they would be going into foster care” are not true.
“This is a time of year when parents do tend to move, and we sometimes do not know why,” Kiouses said, adding that if children go into foster care the school is typically not notified. One kindergarten-age child enrolled at Frazier Park School is said to have gone back to Mexico with his father.
Parents have reported to The Mountain Enterprise that children and families are fearful of going outside or answering the door.
The popular Lebec man known as “Nathan,” (his last name is not confirmed) who reportedly managed Sam’s Liquor for seven years, had been a frequent donor to children’s sports activities in the Mountain Communities. He is well-known in the region for generosity to families in need, friends say. Some children are said to be confused regarding his disappearance. Children have been reported to have heard the word “visa” was in the newspaper, and told their parents: “Nathan is being deported because he didn’t pay his visa bill.” More than one parent reported this confusion to reporters.
Although The Mountain Enterprise was unable to obtain immediate official confirmation of the facts, two preliminary stories were published on December 10 and 17. Because of the delicacy of personal and legal issues, community sources have been slow to allow their names to be used. The national ICE office spokespersons were also slow to respond. Retired ICE agents and a former immigration judge have been helpful in providing details about ICE procedures.
Joseph Whalen of Buffalo, New York, a retired adjudication officer, who worked making decisions on citizenship, explained that information about a person in ICE custody—and communication with the prisoner— is available only to “an accredited representative, as designated on form G-28, from the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review and signed by the alien.”
Whalen warned that he has seen some people known as “notarios” exploit families with immigration status problems. Sometimes they represent themselves as lawyers (abogados), but they are not,” he said.
Whalen added that the League of United Latin American Citizens (http:// lulac.org) is a resource for Latinos seeking accurate immigrant rights information.
This is part of the December 24, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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