ICE arrests workers at DC’s Dulles airport

On Aug. 13, ICE agents set up a checkpoint at a service gate at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., and questioned more than 200 people who attempted to enter the airport grounds. Most of those questioned were working on construction projects at the airport. ICE arrested 42 Latin American construction workers who were found to be ineligible to work in the US. The workers were detained administratively on immigration violations, said Mark X. McGraw, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations at the Washington field office. Federal officials were trying to determine whether criminal charges were warranted against the workers and their employers. (ICE news release, Aug. 13; Washington Post, Aug. 14)

McGraw said the operation “illustrates ICE’s ongoing efforts in partnership with federal and local agencies to secure the critical infrastructure within the National Capital Region.” The operation was carried out with the support of the Transportation Security Administration and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. (ICE news release, Aug. 13) A similar operation at the airport in June 2006 resulted in the arrest of 55 workers at the airport. (WP, Aug. 14)

The National Capital Immigrant Coalition (NCIC) responded to the raid with a press conference and vigil on the evening of Aug. 13 at the ICE detention office in Fairfax, Virginia. The coalition said that seven hours after the arrests, ICE was refusing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained—even to their family members—and was denying them access to their attorneys. “Our understanding is that [ICE] has been interrogating the workers without legal counsel, despite the fact that an attorney has been literally knocking on the door to get in to help them,” said Kimberly Propeack, advocacy director for CASA de Maryland, a member of the coalition. Propeack said a lawyer connected to the coalition reached the ICE office in Fairfax City in the afternoon, after the men were detained, but was told that because they had not been fully processed, they could not be informed that he was willing to represent them.

Advocates were also concerned that officials might decide to move the men quickly to detention facilities in a distant state, as often happens to immigrants picked up by ICE. “Some of these workers are likely to have viable legal claims to stay in the United States,” Propeack said. “They may qualify for asylum; they may have pending immigration applications. But if they are moved away from their families, who are the only ones likely to find them legal help, the likelihood that they will find legal representation is very slim.” McGraw said that it was not clear where the men would be detained but that if they are moved from Virginia, it would be because of a lack of bed space. (NCIC press release, Aug. 13; WP, Aug. 14)

From Immigration News Briefs, Aug. 16

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