Roaring Fork immigration raid underfire

Groups petition to stop raids at public events

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— A Colorado immigration rights group and Latinos in the lower Roaring Fork Valley circulated a petition Tuesday and Wednesday that condemns U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for an operation June 18 at Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs.

The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition said the petition was signed by organizers of Mountain Fair in Carbondale and business operators “that cater to the Latino community.”

The petition will be delivered to ICE and the sheriff’s office, the immigrants’ rights group said.

“The hope of the local leaders is that ICE and the sheriff will hold off on further public displays of immigration enforcement in the Roaring Fork Valley and focus on methods that do not create fear and distrust in the communities they serve,” a press release from the organization stated.

The total number of organizations and individuals that signed the petition wasn’t available because workers still were circulating it in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, coalition spokesman Alan Kaplan said.

The Basalt Town Council was asked by a few residents at its meeting Tuesday to sign the petition. The council concluded it wouldn’t be appropriate, Mayor Leroy Duroux said.

The town has no power to tell a federal agency how to conduct its business, Duroux said. In addition, the mayor thought that signing the petition might mark Basalt as a target for ICE. Duroux also said signing the petition could give Latinos a false sense of security that they cannot be arrested or detained on immigration issues at public events in town.

Basalt council member Peter McBride said it was clear the council majority didn’t support arrests at public events. However, council members said they didn’t know all the details about the arrests at Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs, so they didn’t feel they could weigh in on the debate.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted a joint operation in Glenwood Springs with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in the arrests of “three known gang members” — two June 18 at Strawberry Days and another June 21, the agency reported. One was arrested on criminal charges, and the other two are in ICE custody on immigration violations.

The Immigration Rights Coalition petition said the raid worked against efforts to attract tourism dollars to the Roaring Fork Valley and improve the economy. The raids “have created an environment of fear in the Hispanic and immigrant communities that will negatively impact businesses in the Valley for months if not years to come.”

ICE said in an earlier statement that gang-related activities had been reported at previous Strawberry Days festivals. The arrest of the gang members was intended to make the event safer for families.

A statement by Carl Rusnok, ICE director of communications, Central Region, challenged CIRC’s allegation that the raid was highly disruptive or created an atmosphere of fear for residents not wanted on criminal charges. ICE officials worked with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office to position an unmarked command post more than 400 yards from the festival area, Rusnok said.

“ICE agents arrested three gang members during the festival. No other arrests were made,” Rusnok said. “The discrete positioning of the command post and the ICE agents was specifically designed to minimize disruption to those attending the festival, while also providing significant security to them at the same time.”

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