ICE operation leads to 20 arrests in Kansas City

Operation targets people with criminal records

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A four-day operation last week by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE in the Kansas City metro area resulted in 20 arrests.

According to ICE, there were six arrests in both Kansas City and St. Joseph.

There were three arrests in Olathe, two in Independence and one each in Belton, Blue Springs and Lawrence.

While ICE won't release the names of the people as a matter of policy, the agency said there were 15 men and 5 women ranging in age from 18 to 61.

Seven people arrested are from Mexico, six from Guatemala, three from El Salvador and one each from Brazil, Honduras, Romania and Sierra Leone.

ICE said the operation targeted mostly people with criminal histories.

Those histories include driving under the influence, child neglect, child abuse, drug offenses, fraud and larceny.

Four people were arrested for illegally re-entering the United States after having been deported, which is a felony.

The other two people overstayed lawful visits to the U.S.

"As part of this operation, we continue to focus on the arrest of individuals who are criminal aliens and public safety threats," said Ricardo Wong of ICE. "Because of the tireless efforts of these professional officers, there are fewer criminals in our community."

However, Kansas City Attorney Grady Price believes ICE has become more aggressive in the last year about deporting people who haven't committed crimes other than illegal immigration status.

"I think the difference has been the net has gotten much broader than it was before," Price said.

ICE Spokesman Shawn Neudauer said while ICE operations like the recent one in the metro are routine, agents in the last year have been able to arrest more types of offenders.

He said that's because President Trump rescinded President Obama's executive order to ICE to arrest people who've committed only certain types of offenses.

However, Price notes there was a high number of deportations during the Obama Administration.

"Obama deported twice as many people as Bush did, so if you're saying Obama was soft on immigration and didn't deport people, that's not true, in fact, it's just the opposite," Price said.

The recent ICE action comes just before the deadline President Trump set for Congress to reach a deal on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Congress has failed to reach a deal with the sticking points being border security and the ability to get legal status for family members, also known as chain migration.

"ICE isn't showing up at doors knocking down the door saying 'Ok, we went in and read your DACA application and now we're coming to get you and your family.' But I do think that is the worry," Price said.

ICE raids and the immigration issue are getting a lot of attention across the country.

In Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department after she publicly told her community she had reason to believe there would be an ICE raid.

"Residents should know that they do not have an obligation to open their doors if an ICE officer knocks," Schaaf said. "Difficult to believe that even in today's America, informing people of their legal rights could be illegal," she said.

"I understand the sympathy, but I don't see how it's not obstruction," Price said. "The very essence of what you're doing is you're obstructing the federal government from enforcing its immigration laws," he said.

In addition to taking immigration cases as an attorney, Price said his wife is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Venezuela.

He said that process can take five years while others entering the country illegally are demanding rights now.

"It's not fair," he said.

Price said he can frequently help people who have immigration status issues if they came to the country on some type of visa.

But he said with rare exception, he can't help people who entered the U.S. without documents. Price has had people ask about going back to their native country and getting a legal visa.

But he says in many Latin American countries in particular, there's a 10 to 20-year waiting list to get those visas.

"Most people say, 'You know what, I'm going to stay here and take my chances' and that is the response I get a lot," Price said.

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