An immigrant rights organization claimed Monday that a major statewide crackdown over the weekend by immigration agents extended into west-central Wisconsin.
Voces de la Frontera said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested dozens of people — including a reported 15 in Trempealeau County and three in Clark County — in homes, workplaces and traffic stops across Wisconsin.
“This is the biggest raid I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve been organizing around immigration rights,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera.
The Milwaukee-based advocacy group indicated it received reports of ICE agents arresting at least 11 people in Madison, 15 in Arcadia, three in Milwaukee, five in Green Bay, three in Curtiss and one in Wausau from Friday through Sunday, although it has not confirmed all of those reports.
In Arcadia, four confirmed detainees from Mexico were arrested at an apartment, the group said.
“When these things happen, it doesn’t just affect the individuals and their families, but it transmits fear and concern in the larger immigrant community,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “We’ve had people calling to say they are afraid to leave their homes or send their kids to school or go to work. That’s what we’re responding to.”
ICE officers are out in communities every day conducting targeted arrests, Midwestern ICE spokeswoman Nicole Alberico said in an email.
“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy,” Alberico said. “While looking for those specific individuals, ICE officers sometimes encounter others who are also in violation of U.S. immigration laws. However, as leadership has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of U.S. immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
Neumann-Ortiz called on ICE to return the detainees to their families and called the raids “part of the Trump administration’s escalation of their white nationalist-inspired campaign of state terror against immigrant families.”
Community members alleged that heavily armed ICE agents, who in some cases falsely identified themselves as police officers, conducted the weekend raids and the agency continued to be active Monday in the Milwaukee and Waukesha areas, according to a statement by Voces de la Frontera.
Alberico said ICE agents are police officers and “any suggestion to the contrary is both ridiculous and dangerous.”
“As a standard practice, ICE agents and officers identify themselves as ‘police’ during an encounter because it is the universally recognized term for law enforcement and our personnel routinely interact with individuals from around the world,” Alberico said. “In the often-dangerous law enforcement arena, being able to immediately identify yourself as law enforcement may be a life-or-death issue.”
Agents’ uniforms and jackets also display “ICE” to indicate the specific law enforcement agency being represented, she added.
Voces de la Frontera hopes to resist the crackdown on immigrants by organizing a major get-out-to-vote drive to mobilize Latino voters in Wisconsin, Neumann-Ortiz said.