Fear grips Park City as immigration officers apprehend four
They were wanted on felony counts, but operation leads to broad worries
February 21, 2017
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehended four people in Park City late last week, mounting an operation that caused widespread concern among the area's Latino population as well as among the largely white leadership at City Hall and the County Courthouse.
The Park City Police Department said the operation lasted from 5 a.m. until 8 a.m. on Friday. The Police Department was not provided details, including the locations of the arrests, the nationalities of the people taken into custody, their ages or their genders. Wade Carpenter, the police chief, said the Enforcement and Removal Operations section of Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the operation. Carpenter said the four people were wanted on felony counts involving re-entering the country or unspecified other offenses.
Police Department dispatchers were notified of the operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement just prior to it starting, the police chief said. He said the operation was not a raid or a roundup. It was completed without issue.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson declined to provide details, saying deportation officers conduct targeted enforcement daily.
The apprehensions on Friday initially prompted communitywide concern that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was conducting a raid and the arrest numbers would mount throughout the day. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Police Department, though, provided public statements quelling the concern that a raid was underway. The initial concern coupled with the eventual outcome of the operation led to the scheduling of a forum on Thursday with local leaders that is meant to address the situation.
The police chief on Saturday released a one-page statement describing "targeted enforcement actions" in Park City. He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him the actions "are not uncommon, nor sweeps nor raids, and are part of their normal enforcement operations."
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"Given the timing and heightened anxiety regarding Federal immigration policy, it is both understandable and unfortunate that a considerable amount of community fear and confusion was created," Carpenter said in the statement.
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez also released a one-page statement about the operation, addressing some of the same issues as the police chief.
"With the current political climate regarding Federal immigration policy lending itself to heightened fears, we have witnessed many citizens experience anxiety and confusion as a result of recent rhetoric," the sheriff said.
It is estimated Latinos account for up to 25 percent of the Park City-area population. They started arriving in large numbers in the 1990s, drawn by a hot economy and employment opportunities in the resort, lodging, restaurant and construction industries.
Rebeca Gonzalez, a Mexican-American born in the U.S. and the coordinator of the Park City School District Bright Futures program, said there is a "high level of fear" after the apprehensions. She said children are worried their parents will be detained and questioned as well.
"You could see that there was something deeper than fear. There was concern. They were worried whether or not their families would come home that night," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said one of the people taken into custody is a family friend. She also said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers followed her uncle to his home in Park City on Friday. They questioned him and took his fingerprints, she said. Gonzalez said she heard reports of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detaining people in parking lots and entering a home.
There has long been worry that immigration authorities could someday mount a more intense operation in Park City than the one that occurred on Friday. The worries were heightened after Donald Trump won the White House in November on a platform that included a hardline immigration stand.
In December, roughly a month after Election Day, Mayor Jack Thomas delivered an address during a forum focused on immigration that drew a crowd heavily weighted toward Latinos. The mayor at the forum made a strong statement in support of the area's Latino community, saying everyone is "fundamental in the operation of this great city." He also said he understood there was concern in the Latino community and that officials would support and serve Latinos. The officials would not intimidate the Latino community, the mayor said.
At about the same time, Thomas said Park City is "welcoming and compassionate" to the Latino community and the Police Department does not make an "extra effort" to find people who are in the country without the proper documentation. The police would continue to focus on violent or serious crimes as well as convicted felons, he said.
Another forum was organized after the apprehensions on Friday. It is planned on Thursday, Feb. 23 starting at 6 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Snyderville Basin, 4595 Silver Springs Drive. Area law enforcement leaders and others involved with immigration issues have been invited to address the forum.
"People are frightened," said Charles Robinson, the pastor at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, adding that there is concern about "more raids, more of an intimidation of the Latino community, monitoring the Latino community."
He said panic, fear and anxiety should not become the overriding emotions as he called for calm. Robinson, though, acknowledged there is fear in the community "based on the rhetoric of the president."
Beth Armstrong, the executive director of the not-for-profit People's Health Clinic for the uninsured, is scheduled to moderate the forum. She wants the gathering to "assuage the fear a little," highlighting that the four people who were apprehended were wanted on felony counts.
"We really want to make sure families are able to have information so they cannot be in fear," she said. "The fear is the unknown."
For more information about the meeting at St. Luke’s, please listen:
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