Three police ICE officers

Federal agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office, also known by the chilling acronym ICE, have ramped up their efforts locally since Trump’s immigration ban. According to the Columbus-based Ohio Hispanic Coalition, ICE is waiting outside the homes of suspected undocumented immigrants, following them in unmarked cars, pulling them over without cause, and in some cases, arresting them when they cannot provide proof they are American citizens.

So far six Columbus families have had loved ones arrested by ICE after they drove away from their homes, says Josue Vicente, the executive director of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition, a non-profit for Ohio’s Latino population. He suspects there are more families who are too afraid to come forward with similar stories.

Vicente says some of undocumented immigrants arrested are believed to not have criminal records or outstanding warrants in the US or their home country.

“They are violating the civil rights of these people,” he says. “ICE will go to apartments where there’s a large Latino community. And basically what they will do, is wait for them to get in their car and start driving, approach them at a red light, pull them over for no reason, and ask for papers for no reason. Basically it’s like a kidnapping.”

Vicente believes ICE is pulling people over for simply looking Latino. He suspects they’ve been ordered to make a higher quota of arrests now that Trump is in the White House.

“Their excuse is they are looking for criminals. This is what they are telling these people they pull over,” he says. “What they want to do is make a number.”

Those arrested are being detained in Butler County, at the Butler County Correction Complex, just north of Cincinnati. ICE has a partnership with the county Sheriff’s office to utilize the jail.

Vicente says many undocumented immigrants have been deported from this jail, a facility utilized by ICE for over a decade, and one that also has a history of abuse.

In 2014, The John Marshall Law School in Chicago and its International Human Rights Clinic released a study stating this ICE facility is one of three that fails to protect immigrant detainees and uses solitary confinement for punishment. The report stated one detainee was placed in solitary confinement for 30 days for playing cards during church services.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who runs the facility, has long been an outspoken proponent of deportation of illegal immigrants. And no surprise is how this Butler County jail, says Vicente, is notorious for not extending any civil rights to undocumented immigrants.

“These people are not getting their rights because they almost never allow them to make a phone call to alert their family or call an attorney,” he says. “The family calls us, saying, ‘We haven’t seen our family member in 24 hours and I think they’ve been detained,’ and that’s when we figure out they’ve been arrested by ICE. The process is very slow and there’s a lack of communication. And many of these families are on their own. They have to get an attorney and collect the money to pay the fine.”

Columbus is home to roughly 95,000 undocumented immigrants, this according to the ACLU. In stark contrast to how ICE is treating undocumented immigrants, are the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbus Police Department.

Even before Mayor Ginther recently declared the city would consider making Columbus an official sanctuary city the Free Press discovered that local law enforcement was following protocols very much in line with how law enforcement operates in sanctuary cities, such as New York or Seattle.

These cities essentially have ordered their officers to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” For the most part, sanctuary cities and cities that mirror them protect those who commit low-level nonviolent offenses, such as traffic stops.

Chief Deputy Geoff Stobart, director of the Corrections and Court Services for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, insists his department and the Columbus Police Department will not arrest an undocumented immigrant simply under the suspicion they are illegal. Or will they notify ICE if they suspect a person they arrested is an illegal, he told the Free Press.

What’s more, says Chief Stobart, they will not honor an ICE request to detain someone strictly because ICE suspects they are in the country illegally. This protocol, he says, came about after recent federal court rulings heavily influenced by the Fourth Amendment.

Federal law, however, allows ICE to receive a daily report of who is arrested in Franklin County. And if an undocumented immigrant has criminal warrants in either their home country or this country, says Chief Stobart, ICE will send them to Butler County.

“Once their local criminal case is adjudicated, we would release them,” says Chief Stobart. “We are not going to hold them any time beyond when their criminal case is adjudicated. But if we receive an arrest warrant from ICE, we will honor it. We are following the law 100 percent.”

Vicente hopes Franklin County law enforcement will keep their world in the era of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was considered the Senate’s leading hardliner against immigration.

“Columbus police and any police from our area should not be working as an immigration authority, that’s not their job,” says Vicente.

He says the way ICE is acting – stalking, profiling, and arresting non-criminal immigrants – is inhumane.

“They will kidnap you, take you to some place, and not allow you to communicate with your people.”