March 28, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
Wednesday evening some elected and community leaders listened to an account of the effects of the recent Border Patrol raids in San Jose.
The hearing was sponsored by Raza Sí, a Latino citizens group dedicated to assuring that the civil, political and economic rights of Latinos are not violated. Jorge González, President of Raza Sí, was the moderator of the evening hearings.
Public officials at the hearing were; Supervisors, Ron Gonzales and Zoe Lofgren, San Jose’s Vice Mayor, Blanca Alvarado and Don Edwards’ aide in San Jose, Terry Poche, Dave Behar of U.S. Senator Alan Cranston’s office, Our Lady of Guadalupe Pastor, Father Luis Baldonado, and Bob Gonzales of the County of Santa Clara Human Relations Commission.
Missing from the hearing was the Chief Patrol Agent of the INS Border Patrol, J. William Carter. Even though Carter had two weeks notice of the hearings he failed to respond to the invitation or even send a representative to sit in on the hearings.
The INS (MIGRA) had been conducting a flurry of raids in San Jose. Most of these occurred in east San Jose, though there were reports of such activities also in the west side of San Jose. Most of the raids appear to have occurred this past September and October. The raids seem to have diminished, especially after several public officials, Lofgren and González, threatened a law suit against the INS and pressure from Congressmen Edwards and Mineta.
The effects of those raids have been long lasting in the community. A number of classroom teachers, counselors, social workers and parents gave accounts of the impact of raids have had upon the community, particularly the children.
According to the te4stimony, school attendance noticeably dropped. The children expressed to their parents and teachers fear for their own safety and for the safety of their parents, relatives and friends. Some children had great trouble verbalizing their fears and instead began to behavior strangely.
In particular, the children became fearful that they would be separated from their parents and returned to Mexico. Their fears were not unfounded, in some cases the parents were declared legal residents of the U.S. but were told the children did not qualify. In other instances it was the reverse, the children were legal but the parents were not. Jeff Steinhardt, and immigration attorney, said the activities of the INS demonstrated a “campaign of intimidation.” He explained that a campaign of intimidation consisted of instilling fear similar to those expressed in the evening’s testimony. Fear of separation from one’s family, fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or being seen with the wrong people. This type of fear instills a feeling of inferiority, because for no other reason than one’s ethnicity being Latino, or a person perceived as a Latino, people were being interrogated and challenged as to the legitimacy of their citizenship.
The perpetrators of this intimidation, in this case, the INS, act as if they’re above the nation’s laws. According to Steinhardt, the INS can only halt people for interrogation if the INS has concrete evidence to suspect an individual is illegal.
According to Steinhardt “ the INS has violated U.S. citizens rights for no reason other than their ethnicity, the color of their skin and the language they speak.
As for raiding the schools, by U.S. law all children residing in the U.S., whether legal or illegal, have a right to a public school education.
Surrounding the meeting hall’s wall were many signs in both English and Spanish stating the following: “No redadas cerca de las escuelas,” “Redadas de la migra dañan la mente de los niños!,” “los niños son el future de la sociedad – No dañen a nuestros hijos,” “No INS raids near our schools!”
Vice Mayor Alvarado accused the INS of carrying out the raids when they did in order to frighten the community into non participation in the census which is now underway.
An under count of the minority communities will have a serious negative effect for the groups under counted.
Ron Gonzales, County Supervisor, suggested that the INS was in error in not viewing the Latino community as taxpayers, hence the raids. He proposed a new role for the INS – that the INS instead utilize it’s staff’s ability to identify Latinos as a help to bankers and financiers seeking entrepreneurs (Latinos) wishing to borrow money for business opportunities.
Supervisor Lofgren asked for additional details regarding particular incidents recounted in the evening’s testimony in order to help her office bring even more pressure to bear on reform within the INS. She also pointed out that the INS is a Border Patrol and that it is at the border where they belong, stopping drug smuggling. The INS, Lofgren says, has no place conducting raids and harassing citizens living well within the borders of the U.S.
The network of Immigrants Rights and Services in Santa Clara County has established an INS Abuse Hotline (408) 246-4390. Call this number:
– If you know a person who was a victim or witness to a raid or abuse.
The Network will answer questions, or in case of an emergency, will send a team of experts to help the caller.
All call are confidential.
Raza Sí leaders invited all persons interested in the issue of INS harassment of Latinos and other ethnic groups to attend their next meeting 7:00 p.m., April 6, at 160 E. Virginia St., Suite 240.