Operation “Return to Sender” hits New York’s mid-Hudson

On April 4, ICE agents searched apartments and stopped people on the street in the mid-Hudson community of Valatie, New York, arresting eight out-of-status immigrants. In nearby Chatham, ICE arrested two men on the street. ICE spokesperson Mike Gilhooly verified that there were 42 arrests in the Capital District of New York over the week of April 2 as part of “Operation Return to Sender,” a nationwide program targeting immigrants who have failed to comply with deportation orders. However, only 18 of the 42 people arrested had already been ordered removed by an immigration judge; the other 24 were just picked up on suspicion of being out of status. Six of those arrested reportedly had criminal records. ICE received support from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and state police were also on the scene.

Immigrant rights supporters protested the raids with a demonstration on April 6 in Albany. Leaders from ARISE, a congregation-based social justice organization, said dozens of immigrants had been arrested over the past week in Albany, Latham, Ravena, Chatham and Valatie. The protesters accused ICE of using “Gestapo tactics” and called on elected officials to halt the raids. Another activist compared the situation of immigrants today to that faced by Japanese Americans in World War II, and said the movement to help the detainees has built on the tradition of the Underground Railroad.

Bail was set at $5,000 for at least some of the detainees, and at least four raised the funds and were released beginning on April 9. On Apr. 11, ICE agents were reportedly seen in the town of Hudson, but no arrests were reported there. (The Independent, Hudson Valley, April 12; Troy Record, April 7)

The mid-Hudson area newspaper The Independent interviewed a local resident (who asked not to be identified) who knows two of the men arrested in Chatham, both of them Mexicans who have worked at restaurants. “They want to be legal—I feel bad for them—they want to pay their taxes,” said the resident. “I feel horrible about it—they work their ass off, they want to see their families and they can’t.” (The Independent, April 12)

In March, 20 immigrants from Central America were arrested at a motel in Colonie, just north of Albany, after some of them were pulled over by police. They were working on a construction project. (The Independent, April 6)

From Immigration News Briefs, April 28

See our last post on the immigration crackdown.