Federal immigration agents detained at least four people in Sacramento on Sunday during what local activists are describing as a Northern California deportation crackdown. But ICE officials are refusing to give details.
ICE spokesman James Schwab said the agency would not offer any comments about the detentions or any current immigration operations in the area. Instead, he provided a general statement.
"ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately. However, ICE no longer exempts classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," the statement read.
"Sanctuary cities and states are not immune from federal law."
Local immigration activist Carlos Montes-Ponce of Sacramento Area Congregations Together said that as of Monday, calls coming into a rapid response hotline had helped identify three men who were detained by ICE in Sacramento over the weekend. Sacramento rapid response coordinator Edwin Valdez separately confirmed a local woman had been detained as well. Rapid response teams, mostly volunteers, are meant to observe ICE actions and guide immigrants towards legal and social services. They have been set up in Sacramento and throughout California in recent months.
The arrests were part of 13 detentions confirmed throughout Northern California by a network of immigration activists, including five arrests in Merced, two in Contra Costa and one each in Monterey and Napa counties.
Montes-Ponce said the detentions seem to have been limited to Sunday morning, and no further arrests had been reported to the rapid response line as of Monday.
Montes-Ponce was not able to give names or details of those detained, but said two men had been taken into federal custody while entering or leaving their Sacramento homes. Immigration activist Janeth Rodriquez said ICE agents in plain clothes approached one of the detained men in the Arden area near El Camino and Howe.
The third man may have been detained during a planned traffic stop. Details on how the woman was detained were not available.
The immigration action caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. Her office confirmed Monday that it had reached out to rapid response coordinators in the area to ask them to provide affected families with privacy waivers that would allow Harris to collect information and potentially take action regarding their cases.
"They were asking for us to get the signatures from the family on these cases and so we are assuming they will want to try to assist them in any way, but I’m not sure exactly what looks like or what that will mean," said Valdez.
Harris has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump's immigration policy. In January, she wrote a joint letter with Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ICE acting director Thomas Homan requesting to be "immediately briefed" on planned immigration actions in California after Homan said, "California better hold on tight," in a televised interview. Last year, she introduced legislation that would increase access to legal representation for those in immigration detention facilities.
Despite the warning from Homan, immigration raids have been slow to materialize in California on the scale that some have anticipated. But a series of targeted actions aimed at individuals and ethnic groups has caused fear in many minority communities.
In early February, ICE officials served audit notices on 77 businesses across its San Francisco area of responsibility, which ranges from Bakersfield to the Oregon border and includes Sacramento. The Monsanto facility in Woodland received one of the notices, a spokesperson confirmed.
Those audits are demands to businesses for I-9 records employees are required to fill out verifying the legal ability to work in the United States. At least one agricultural business in Fresno reported many employees quit after being informed of the audit.
ICE agents also arrested 212 people and served 122 audit notices in the Los Angeles region in recent weeks during a five-day operation, according to an ICE press release. The agency said 88 percent of those arrested were convicted criminals.
Rodriquez said about 120 people have been trained in the Sacramento area to act as rapid responders when ICE enforcement actions are reported. She said her coalition is also offering "know your rights" trainings to immigrants who could be targeted by ICE.
"It's important for people not to panic," she said. "They don't have to answer any questions. They have the right to go and seek legal counsel before they sign anything or sign away their rights."