ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Several local Latino communities were living in fear following immigration raids across Virginia.
According to CNN, the Department of Homeland Security will soon release aggressive new immigration policies that could make substantial differences to how deportation is handled in the United States.
Sunday, DCW50 talked with a man who was part of a larger group of people who were detained by ICE agents in front of a church in Alexandria on February 8.
The said he man was originally born in El Salvador, but has been a Green Card holder for years. He described the early morning ambush as being very scary. The father of three, said initially, ICE officers surrounded him and other Latinos leaving Rising Hope Mission Church, held them, lined them up against a wall, and questioned them about their immigration status, before putting some of them in the back of a van.
“When they came out of the church, the agents stopped them right there on that wall, lined them up on the wall, and put them in the truck,” one witness told DCW50.
This was just one of a number of reported raids that had gone on in the early morning and late night hours in Northern Virginia.
“ICE activity is not something new, but what is new is the lack of information, and the fact that they seem to just be targeting everyone who looks Latino,” expressed Michelle LaRue, Regional Director of CASA.
Kerry Kincannon, pastor of Rising Hope Mission Church said in the 12 years that the church has operated an overnight hypothermia shelter, February 8, was the first time agents surrounded people as they left the shelter.
“Definitely, Rising Hope, was targeted. You do not have half a dozen or more unmarked cars swoop in at 7 a.m., dozens of officers jump out, and two patty wagons pull up, and tell me that we were not targeted,” expressed Pastor Kincannon.
In response to the raid, Senator Tim Kaine tweeted a letter, publicly asking ICE for answers.
In the meantime, Pastor Kincannon traveled to Richmond, to lobby for change at the state capital, and helped circulate a petition against ICE raids at places of worship. As of Sunday, the petition had more than 24 thousand signatures.
“They are making people fearful of coming to church. They are making people fearful of coming in, to get out of the cold, to get help in a shelter, and we are not going to stand for it, we are absolutely not going to stand for it,” said Kincannon.
ICE released statements saying they did not overstep their legal boundaries because they made arrests across the street from the church, not on church grounds.
Kincannon said there would be a vigil at Rising Hope Mission Church in the coming days.