More than 300 illegal immigrants are being deported every month from Irving because of the city’s increased scrutiny of the immigration status of people arrested, according to the city’s mayor.
The Mexican consul general has expressed concern after members of his staff found that half of all the Mexicans they interviewed in an immigration jail last Saturday were arrested in Irving. He said he suspects racial profiling.
But Irving officials said that last Saturday’s arrests were part of an effort to target apartment complexes with high crime rates, not illegal immigrants. The deportations came from the jail staff’s efforts to identify people who should be referred to federal immigration officials.
Dispute over arrests
Residents at the Willows Apartments, where arrests have been made, said people were grilling food, sitting outside and talking in the apartments’ common area when police approached from different directions about 8 p.m. A few residents were drinking alcohol, they said.
Jose, 31, from Mexico, said he dashed across the street. Jose Carlos, 26, from El Salvador, said he ran into his apartment and slammed the door shut, like many other people did, and refused to open it despite banging by police.
“If we opened the door, they would have taken us away,” he said.
Patricia, 39, of Mexico said police asked for immigration papers. She said they arrested enough people to fill two police vans.
The residents asked that their last names not be used because they are in the United States illegally. Mayor Herbert Gears disputed some of the residents’ comments.
“If somebody’s arrested, it is because they have committed an arrestable offense,” Gears said. “Our police officers do not check for papers or documentation of citizenship.”
He said jail officials, not police officers on the streets, inquire about arrested people’s immigration status. They then notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement about people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said Irving has been particularly diligent.
“They do have a very cooperative, working relationship with ICE,” Rusnok said. “Irving is especially proactive in that regard.”
Mexican Consul General Enrique Hubbard Urrea said he wants to talk with Irving officials to find out what happened. Gears said he would meet if asked.
Consulates have the right to meet with their citizens if they are detained. The Mexican Consulate sometimes uses the meetings to identify increased arrests from a particular area and raise concerns about racial profiling.
“They were looking for places where the Hispanics live, so this is a form of racial profiling from our point of view, and we are really worried about it,” Hubbard said. “What we are questioning is the police spending all this time, all this effort and all this money prosecuting people who are not criminals.”
Police spokesman David Tull said people can avoid scrutiny about their immigration status by staying out of trouble.
“It just upsets me that people say we’re out there targeting a particular race,” Tull said. “We’re out there targeting the disorder.”