Raid rumors rock Park City
Park City was rocked last week by rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had raided businesses in the area.
Elizabeth Rodriguez supervises housekeepers at The Yarrow Hotel in Park City where people were afraid, she said, insisting that all her employees work legally in the United States.
Nonetheless, the phone started ringing in the housekeeping department Friday after rumors of raids spread throughout Latino circles in western Summit County, Rodriguez said.
"We received many calls and I guess it was just a rumor," she said.
Federal immigration agent Dave Ward called the scare "mass hysteria."
"It’s almost comical," Ward told The Park Record Monday. "We don’t do mass round ups that’s not even on the radar."
Many of the illegal immigrants he arrests for deportation are involved in serious crimes like human trafficking or drug dealing, Ward added.
"They get themselves on a radar screen by doing some sort of criminal activity," said Ward, who used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.
Citizens placed many telephone calls to immigration agents during protests this month in Salt Lake City and demanded that illegal immigrants demonstrating downtown be arrested, he added.
"Who are the ones that are illegal?" Ward asked, adding that people aren’t often arrested just for being in the United States illegally.
As Congress debates controversial immigration reforms like providing more authority to local police agencies to detain illegal immigrants, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said federal lawmakers must adequately fund new mandates.
"They’re going to severely impact local law enforcement. We are overloaded trying to do all of the things that we’re doing now," Edmunds said. "Frankly, I have enough on my plate just trying to make sure that we are enforcing all of the state statutes."
Edmunds doesn’t know of any "sweeping raids" conducted by the federal government in Summit County since he was sworn in as sheriff in 2003.
"Customarily speaking, ICE has not really been interested in immigration status unless they have committed a felony," Edmunds said.
County deputies don’t have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, he added.
"There is no state (immigration) charge," Edmunds said. "If [Congress wants] to add something else to the plate, that’s going to be that big, I think that local law enforcement really couldn’t do that without a significant monetary contribution from the feds."
Meanwhile, police officers in Park City saw no ICE agents in the town Friday, Park City police Lt. Phil Kirk said, adding, "we checked with them and to the best of our knowledge we couldn’t find that they were doing anything."
According to Kirk, "there were a number of people who were concerned about that from the Hispanic community but we couldn’t verify that there was anything that was actually occurring."
"Unfortunately, the panic had spread quickly because of what happened in Tooele," he added, referring to arrests made by immigration agents in Utah last week.
People claimed Friday that immigration agents had targeted several hotels in Park City, said Joe Lair, human resources director for Deer Valley Lodging.
"We had just heard that [immigration officials were] leaving The Yarrow and they were heading to the Marriott in Prospector," said Lair, who is also a contributor to The Record.
At The Yarrow, however, the lobby was almost empty Friday at about 3 p.m.
"It doesn’t surprise me," said Yarrow front-desk supervisor Teeny Minoria, adding that staffers at The Canyons, Deer Valley and Hampton Inn at Kimball Junction had called with the same rumors.
Local Latino advocate Pepe Grimaldo says concerned residents also contacted her.
"They’re doing it to deport as many people as they can," Grimaldo said. "That’s what we hear."
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