Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained at least six immigrants in Madison without prior communication with the Madison Police Department, city officials said Friday.
The immigrants were detained as part of a targeted enforcement operation, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said, and not part of a raid on a single location. She said the immigrants were detained while traveling to different workplaces or job sites.
It was not known why they were detained.
Mayor Paul Soglin said the operation by ICE goes against city policy and practice, which has sought to protect undocumented immigrants and their families.
“We’re very disappointed in how ICE and the federal government are conducting themselves,” Soglin said. “We are going to do our best to work with community leaders to make sure the rights of those individuals in ICE’s custody are fully protected.”
Police Chief Mike Koval said the department had an agreement with ICE that it would receive notification of dates, times and locations for detainments, as well as charges that would be filed.
The department was not notified directly that ICE would be operating in the city, Koval said. Instead ICE agents contacted the Dane County 911 center.
Attempts to reach the ICE regional office in Chicago were unsuccessful.
Koval said he hopes there was a benign reason for the communication breakdown, but he said he likely won’t get any information over the weekend.
The police department has cooperated with ICE in the past when undocumented immigrants have been charged with violent crimes, but Koval said the department does not cooperate solely with immigration enforcement.
Undocumented immigrants in the community won’t feel safe reporting crimes if they are victims or witnesses if they fear they may face deportation, Koval said, which is why the department does not report immigration status unless it is relevant to a case.
“I don’t know that we could have a good index on what public safety issues are in our midst if there are people who are hesitant to report when they’re the victims or even if they’ve been the witnesses to crime,” Koval said.
Following the ICE detainments, the community is now in “hyper-warp distress mode,” Koval said.
“We are in no way or shape cooperating in this kind of enforcement,” Bidar-Sielaff said.
Bidar-Sielaff said there should not be panic in the community because these are not arbitrary raids on locations, but ICE is instead using a list of individuals to target. She said she does not know how the list is formed or whose names are on the list.
Should undocumented immigrants be contacted by ICE or be detained, they have resources available to them, Bidar-Sielaff said, including legal assistance.
Karen Menendez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano, said the families of those detained should immediately contact Fabiola Hamdan, the immigration affairs specialist with Dane County, at 608-242-6260. She said any extra time to work on deportation defense is helpful.
Soglin said many Americans take for granted that they can leave the house in the morning and reasonably expect to return to see all the other members of the household. The families of undocumented immigrants regularly fear they might not be reunited at the end of the day, he said, and for the families of those detained, those fears have been realized.
The immigrants who were detained included Latinos and others, Bidar-Sielaff said, but not much else is known about them. Koval said he did not know where the immigrants are being detained.