Peninsula police shut off from immigration arrests

President Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a priority.

LONG BEACH, Wash. — Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April asking the federal agency to share information in advance of any sweeps, raids and arrests made on his turf.

The notifications would enable the sheriff’s office to monitor the sweeps, provide factual information to residents and law enforcement partners afterward, and “promote transparency and public trust.”

But the sheriff said ICE seems to be ignoring his plea. He wrote another letter on Wednesday, making it clear in large red letters across the top that it is his second request.

“I’ve got word not one single time that they’ve made an arrest here,” Johnson said. “It’s not like it has been in the past, the pre-Trump days.”

The specter of ICE raids has created tension in Hispanic communities across the Pacific Northwest.

Advocates are documenting stories of immigrants being taken into federal custody and believe ICE has arrested 32 immigrants locally in the past 18 months.

Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright said his department has had no contact with ICE since several years ago, when federal authorities notified him of the possible presence in the area of an armed fugitive who entered the United States unlawfully.

The police department has not participated in any recent raids and does not consider immigration status in making local law enforcement decisions, Wright said.

President Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a priority. The U.S. Department of Justice has been critical of states and cities that have not fully cooperated with federal agents on immigration, but Sheriff Johnson insists federal agents also ought to let local law enforcement know about their activities.

Stephanie Serrano, of South Bend, said she wanted to speak up for those being targeted by ICE’s “cloak-and-dagger” operations after seeing families of friends and neighbors torn apart by immigration arrests and deportations.

“They’re being watched, stalked is the right word,” she said. “Several oyster pickers have been followed. … Most (of those who’ve been arrested) are hardworking people.”

Erin Glenn, a Spanish teacher at Ilwaco High School, said a father with five young children was arrested Wednesday morning. Sheriff Johnson said he wasn’t made aware of any arrests, but ICE did notify the sheriff’s office that it was in the area.

“We aren’t required to, but out of consideration for officer and operational safety, we generally alert the primary local law enforcement agency in a jurisdiction immediately beforehand if we’re going to be conducting an enforcement action in their area,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in an email.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Seattle handles Washington state, Oregon and Alaska but does not have arrest and deportation numbers by county readily available, Kice said.

Earlier this month, Serrano spoke out against the immigrant arrests and deportations at a rally outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. She helped organize a trip to the private immigration prison for about 20 protesters from Pacific County. They came to the Aug. 12 demonstration with granola, dried fruits, coloring books and crayons to give to those traveling to visit loved ones in lockup.

The volunteers continue to work with advocacy groups, such as Willapa Bay Resistance, Long Beach Indivisible and Living Liberally to support immigrant rights, Serrano said.

“ICE is a real threat,” she said. “It’s changed the atmosphere in our community. There wasn’t this kind of fear before.”