As the national debate on immigration continues to heat up, video from last year has resurfaced of neighbors protesting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security agents as they broke into a home on a federal warrant for trafficking of minors.
People in the West Oakland neighborhood of Oakland, Calif. woke up early one morning last year when they heard ICE agents raiding one of the houses and assumed the agents were arresting illegal immigrants for deportation, according to the video from a local CBS News outlet.
The protesters, who crowded around the house, were apparently not given any information by the agents about what was happening.
“It’s been really tough because we have no idea what’s going on in there, and we know that there’s a lot of injustices that have been happening,” said Hadar Cohen, who held a sign reading, “No person is illegal.”
“We care for our neighbors, and we’re for immigration rights.”
The Oakland Police Department told the CBS station that the operation technically had nothing to do with immigration enforcement and the agents were acting on a federal search warrant obtained during an ongoing criminal investigation into juvenile sex trafficking.
However, no charges have been filed in this case, and one person now faces deportation.
ICE was seen leading two people out of the house with blankets over their heads to protect their identities.
“ICE is not welcome in this country. HS is not welcome,” said another neighbor, Adley Penner. “I don’t support what they do. I think it is a blasphemy.”
Protesters also wrote, “We love our neighbors” and “OPD [Oakland Police Department] is a disgrace” on the ground in chalk.
Several politicians have called for scrapping ICE recently after outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigrants, which resulted in children being separated from their parents as the adults were prosecuted.
Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York became the first sitting senator to support abolishing the agency last week. “I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” she said in announcing her stance. She was soon joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
“People are smuggled and trafficked, while children are sexually exploited at home and abroad,” ICE’s website states. “Most ICE offices and programs have a role in preventing terrorism. Several are on the front lines of this effort, either identifying dangerous persons before they enter the U.S. or finding them as they violate immigration or customs laws. ICE also works to prevent the illegal export of U.S. technology that could be used or repurposed to do harm.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said ICE agents were breaking up a child sex-trafficking ring. No criminal charges have yet been filed, but the agents were acting on a federal warrant for child human trafficking.