A group of Latino men were reportedly apprehended and some of them arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as they were leaving a church shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, the latest high-profile apprehensions to come to light amid a surge of immigration raids.
On Feb. 8, a group of six men left the hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church at about 6:45 a.m., according to local news station WRC, and were surrounded by ICE agents immediately after crossing the street. Oscar Ramirez, who was among those apprehended, said the agents ordered the men to line up against a brick wall before scanning their fingerprints to determine whether they had criminal records.
Ramirez, a green card holder, was not arrested, but two of the six men reportedly were.
ICE agents are expected to follow guidelines that discourage them from targeting suspected undocumented immigrants in so-called “sensitive sites” — places of worship, schools, shelters, hospitals — unless they have permission to do so from a supervisor or there are “exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.” It is not clear what led the ICE agents in this case to target the sensitive site.
“They were clearly targeting the church because they knew that they stayed here in the hypothermia shelter,” Rising Hope Mission Church’s Rev. Keary Kincannon told NBC4. “So they were waiting for them to cross the street and then jump on them.”
An ICE spokesperson said that officers approached a group of individuals standing on a sidewalk outside a shopping center and conducted consensual interviews.
“The ICE ‘sensitive locations’ policy, which remains in effect, provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided,” Virginia ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell said in a statement. “DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.”
The incident occurred after a wave of ICE raids where almost 700 people were arrested over a five-day period, stoking fear among immigrant communities across the country that they could be targeted for removal from the United States and potentially separated from family and friends. For instance, according to local Fox affiliate WDAF in Kansas City, the Sacred Heart Guadalupe parish typically attracts about 500 families, most of them Latino, for mass on Sundays.
This past weekend, amid rumors that the church would be raided, only about 100 showed up.