Congressman Lloyd Doggett is calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release a raft of new information about immigration raids conducted last February after the Observer reported last week that the agency arrested nearly three times more immigrants in the Austin area than it previously reported.
In a letter sent Thursday to top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE officials, Doggett, D-Austin, says the information that ICE provided to his office and the public last year was “selective and deceptive.” He writes that ICE first told him it had arrested only 28 immigrants, before changing the number to 51. An Observer public information request revealed that the actual number was 132, and that ICE had initially included arrests from only two of four days that agents were active in the Austin area. The agency has explained the discrepancy by saying separate national and regional operations overlapped.
“ICE engaged in deception,” Doggett told the Observer. “I want ICE focused on the security of our communities, not on separating law-abiding immigrants from their children, and this is why I requested complete data on their arrests and an explanation for their glaring omissions.”
Doggett, who has served in Congress for more than two decades, is calling for the agency to release a “detailed list” of prior criminal convictions for all 132 immigrants who were arrested, including whether each was “targeted” or encountered incidentally. Of the 132, ICE listed 72 as having criminal records, which includes immigration and driving offenses. He is also requesting the total number of non-criminals arrested by ICE in Central Texas since February 2017, and for ICE to verify whether the numbers from raids it conducted in other U.S. cities at the same time last year were also incomplete.
Doggett’s request follows on the heels of other lawmakers’ responses. In a press release last Tuesday, state Representative Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said: “I am deeply troubled by the federal agency’s lack of transparency, accountability and integrity in this matter, and I intend on setting the record straight.”
Austin City Council member Greg Casar said he’s troubled by what he characterized as a pattern of deception on ICE’s part. He noted that the agency first denied the existence of any special operation before changing its story, and he also cited documents that revealed agents scrambled at the time to compile cases that would paint their targets as hardened criminals. Casar concluded: “ICE is operating as part Trump propaganda machine, and part secret police.”
DHS and ICE have acknowledged receipt of Doggett’s request but have yet to respond, according to Doggett’s spokesperson Jaimie Woo. “As we often do, Congressional correspondence goes through the appropriate channels,” San Antonio ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda told the Observer in response to a request for comment.