Echo Park Mother’s Arrest Raises Questions About ICE Procedures

In a viral video, a neighbor repeatedly demanded to see a judge-signed arrest warrant

Alicia Rivera’s Sunday morning was disrupted by what she thought was a lovers’ quarrel outside her Echo Park home. She woke up her son, Victor Bowman-Rivera, and the two rushed outside to discover that their neighbor was being handcuffed by ICE agents and loaded into an unmarked SUV. Rivera pulled out her phone to record as she argued for the release of her neighbor.

In the viral video that resulted, Rivera can be heard repeating that the ICE officials need an warrant signed by a judge to make the arrest; Rivera claims that the paperwork the agents had was not signed and was not on Los Angeles Superior Court letterhead.

Although ICE officials do need a judicial warrant to search or even enter a domicile, Rivera’s neighbor was taken into custody outside her home (she’d reportedly gone outside to move her car). In a statement, ICE maintains that federal law does not mandate that officers have a judge-signed warrant.

“Congress has established no process, requirement, or expectation directing ICE to seek a judicial warrant from already overburdened federal courts before taking custody of an alien on civil immigration violations,” says a statement provided ICE public affairs officer Lori Haley. “This idea is simply a figment created by those who wish to undermine immigration enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety.”

Haley added that the agency “exercises its appropriate authority to make its arrests.”

As the Trump administration has threatened ramp up ICE crackdowns on non-citizens they claim are in the U.S. illegally, local leaders and immigrant rights advocates have launched campaigns to make sure people know what to do if they come in contact with immigration enforcement. In a video tweeted by Los Angeles Police Department chief Michel Moore on July 13, Mayor Eric Garcetti says that he and Moore “want every Angeleno to know their rights and how to exercise them.”

“You don’t have to open your door to an ICE agent that doesn’t have a warrant signed by a judge,” Garcetti says. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights reiterates in informational documents provided on its website that “if law enforcement shows up to your house, do not open the door. Ask them to slide the warrant under the door. It has to be signed by a judge, and have your name or address.” If ICE had attempted to arrest Rivera’s neighbor while she was inside her home, she would have been within her rights to demand to see a judicial warrant.

A resident of the United States since age 3, the unidentified woman taken into custody on July 21 was reportedly brought to the country from Guatemala by her parents, and, according to Rivera, she was an established member of the Los Angeles community.

“She went to school here, she grew up here. She’s a local parent and resident,” Rivera says, mentioning the woman’s two children, ages 8 and 11. According to Rivera, the arrested woman had applied for citizenship approximately two years earlier, after attempting to have a previous possession charge removed from her record. Rivera says the undocumented woman had recently received a phone call from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, explaining that they “had no record of her paperwork.”

Ninety percent of people taken into custody by ICE in 2018 “had either a criminal conviction(s), pending criminal charge(s), were an ICE fugitive, or illegally reentered the country after previously being removed,” according to a statement provided by ICE spokesperson Haley.

“That said, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and—if found removable by final order—removal from the United States,” the statement concludes.

In 2018, more than 7,800 people were arrested by ICE in the agency’s Los Angeles Area of Responsibility. The most up-to-date report from ICE shows that as of March 2019, almost 37,000 people have been arrested nationwide, and approximately 63,000 people have been removed. ICE did not provide statistics for the Los Angeles area for 2019, nor for the weekend of the Echo Park arrest.

“Her life is ruined,” Rivera says of her neighbor. “She couldn’t notify people, she couldn’t notify work. She was just removed her from her life. They didn’t have to do that.”

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