U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
LONG BEACH, Wash. — Neighbors are trying to come up with cash to help families of immigrants who’ve been rounded up in federal raids across Pacific County.
A newly formed local group, the Immigration Assistance Committee, has given more than $4,000 to help eight affected families with expenses, such as rent, food and moving costs, said volunteer Sandy Nielson of Nahcotta.
Now, the advocates are asking for help.
So far, the group’s donations have gone to mothers and fathers who are struggling to raise children with little to no income after their spouses were taken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Nielson said.
Many worked in the shellfish industry. Their families relied upon their incomes. Employers were counting on them too, Nielson said.
Volunteers hope to raise at least $10,000 through donations at gofundme.com/immigrants-long-beach-washington.
The committee counts 35 immigrants who have been picked up on the peninsula in 2016 and 2017, volunteer Ann Reeves said. The advocate from Long Beach said the group has learned in the past few weeks of at least four others who were taken around South Bend and Raymond.
Pacific County has at least 23 open cases in U.S. immigration courts, according to a analysis of records obtained from federal agencies and courts by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The data shows 15 pending cases from around Raymond and six from the peninsula.
Some of those who’ve been arrested are locked up at the private Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, leaving their families without income for meals and housing, let alone money to post bond for their loved one, Nielson said. Others want to reunite their families after being split up by deportations. They need help with travel documents and expenses.
“These families have been torn apart,” said Robert Brake, another advocate. “We can’t sit by and do nothing.”
Brake and his wife, Gwen, are organizing a celebration of Hispanic culture to help raise money for immigrant neighbors. The Ocean Park couple plans to auction colorful pinatas filled with Mexican candy and other items, and donate the proceeds to affected immigrants and their families.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Brake said. “We’ll make it a little bit of a fiesta in the midst of a tragedy.”
The fundraiser is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 20 at Chautauqua Lodge in Long Beach.
Gwen Brake acknowledges that the people being picked up did commit a crime by coming into the country illegally. But, the Ocean Beach after-school program teacher said, arresting and deporting parents punishes children. Families, including those who’ve been part of the community for decades, and businesses that rely on the work of immigrants are also suffering.
“They’ve been our friends and our neighbors,” she said. “They’re the people who’ve held up our little corner of the world.”
ICE does not have arrest and deportation counts by county readily available, spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in August.
Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson said ICE gave his requests the cold shoulder for months until the Chinook Observer raised questions about why federal officials weren’t sharing information with local law enforcement.
The agency has recently started to provide at least some details about arrests, Johnson said. ICE last reported making an arrest in the county on Friday.
The Observer has requested public records under the Freedom of Information Act that could reveal more details about the federal agency’s local activities. The sheriff’s office is also expected to provide information.
Despite the recent step toward transparency, immigrants on the peninsula aren’t counting on enforcement relenting any time soon, Nielson, the Nahcotta volunteer, said.
She knows one man who’s saving money in case he needs to bail himself out.
“He expects to be picked up anytime in a raid,” she said. “Most of the people have been here a long time. Their families and employers depend on them, then — they’re gone.”