Santa Cruz Police Chief slams Homeland Security after immigration raids

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Santa Cruz Police Chief slams Department of Homeland Security
City officials in Santa Cruz say their community got a raw deal from the fallout of a Department of Homeland Security raid that led to immigration detentions then deportations.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- City officials in Santa Cruz say their community got a raw deal. It's all fallout from a Department of Homeland Security raid that led to immigration detentions then deportations. Daly City Police also assisted the Department of Homeland Security with the raid.

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One of the big questions now is whether officials in that city share the same sentiment as those in Santa Cruz.

A Lieutenant with the Daly City Police Department says they executed a search warrant last week on Rio Verde Street after the Department of Homeland Security contacted them to help with a large-scale investigation of MS13 gang members.

The Lieutenant with Daly City PD says approximately 12 people were located inside a residence of interest. The Daly City Police Department then turned the investigation over to the Department of Homeland Security.

Meantime in Santa Cruz, during a press conference today, the Police Chief slammed the Department of Homeland Security saying that the arrests in that city were part of an ICE secret immigration raid. At a city council meeting in Santa Cruz last week residents expressed concerns that was the case.

"The Department of Homeland Security unbeknownst to us at the police department had acted outside of the scope of this operation and had detained and removed a number of individuals from various locations based upon their immigration status," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel.

"We agreed to participate only after being assured by senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security that this operation did not have an immigration component to it," Vogel continued. "This has violated the trust of our community and we cannot tell you how disappointed we are by the betrayed of the Department of Homeland Security."

Department of Homeland Security officials have not responded to the city of Santa Cruz's claims. It's unclear whether any similar arrests were made in Daly City. The Daly City Police Department Spokesperson today said he did not have the answer to that question.

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ABC7 News also reached out to the Daly City Mayor's office but did not hear back. Some Daly City residents meantime are considering making a push to declare the area a sanctuary city.

ICE Spokesman for the San Francisco Field office James Schwab sent out this statement on the incident:On Feb. 13, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led a multi-agency operation involving the execution of federal search and arrest warrants at 11 locations as part of an ongoing criminal investigation targeting alleged criminal activity by suspected members of a notorious transnational gang. The operation was the culmination of a 5-year investigation which resulted in the arrest of 10 criminal organization members on federal criminal charges in Santa Cruz, Daly City, and Watsonville. Additionally, during the enforcement action, authorities encountered 11 illegal aliens at the operational locations who were detained initially on administrative immigration violations due to their association with suspected members of a transnational street gang. Ultimately, 10 of those individuals were released. One remains in agency custody at this time due to his criminal history and possible ties to the ongoing investigation. At no time during the operation were minors were left unattended at any of the enforcement locations.

Several days prior to the operation, our Special Agent-in-Charge office notified the Santa Cruz Chief of Police that any non-targeted foreign nationals encountered during the enforcement actions at the search and arrest locations would be held briefly until determinations could be made about their identities and case histories. The Chief acknowledged this possibility and it was agreed that no foreign nationals would enter the Santa Cruz Police Department's facility or their police vehicles.

We worked closely with the Santa Cruz Police Department over the last five years on this case. Allegations that the agency secretly planned an immigration enforcement action in hopes there would be new political leadership that would allow for an alleged "secret" operation to take place are completely false, reckless, and disturbing.

Ryan L. Spradlin, the Special Agent-in-Charge in San Francisco, has stated that "it's unfortunate when politics get intertwined with a well planned and executed public safety operation. When politics undermine law and order, the only winners are the criminals." Spradlin publicly reiterated that he understands the concerns of community members and the sensitive nature of the operation, but that it's a sad day for the law enforcement community when some continue to make statements because they are worried about their jobs, while our special agents remain focused on doing theirs. "I told the Deputy Chief that rather than disparaging this operation, the community of Santa Cruz should understand that they are safer because of it," said Spradlin.

Law enforcement operations are fluid, and unforeseen circumstances often arise that must be assessed and addressed on site. The goal of this operation was to arrest known members of a violent criminal organization and disrupt the dangerous activities of this organization. All of the arrests were conducted in accordance with agency policies and consistent with the special agents' authorities under federal law.

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