ICE Agents’ Ruse Operations
Guatemalans in the Boston area are seeing spies infiltrating factories, buses with tinted windows taking away unidentifiable co-workers, and men with guns grabbing their neighbors. For these survivors of state violence, it’s a traumatic reminder of the very thing they thought they had left behind. Twenty-six-year-old Julia, arrested in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid, said, “If they are taking children away and everything, then for me, that’s a second war.” She told her story in interviews with Professors Brinton Lykes and Dan Kanstroom of Boston College’s Post-Deportation Human Rights Project.
Thirteen of the fifteen Guatemalans in the town of Chimaltenango who had organized a group on behalf of loved ones picked up by ICE in the US could not locate them. These Guatemalans, in meetings with Lykes and Kanstroom, also spontaneously brought up the decades-long civil war that ended in 1996, during which 200,000 were killed and thousands vanished. A woman who lost her son and husband in the war and who was desperate to find her grandson asked the two professors, “Are they being disappeared?”
The US government is not sending out death squads. But the Guatemalans are onto something. According to an unnamed ICE official responding to questions sent by e-mail, ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians and rely on other tricks, some of which are illegal, in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. I found incidents in which ICE agents posed as OSHA inspectors, insurance agents and religious workers. The effect is to corrode trust in the government, neighbors–and even Mormons.
Last summer, a woman came to the office of Marina Lowe, an ACLU attorney in Salt Lake City, saying she believed that ICE agents dressing as Mormon missionaries had been to her house. Lowe’s client noticed that the missionaries lacked the black name-tags she’d always seen them wear, and behaved in other ways inconsistent with missionary protocol, including entering her home while her husband was absent. After she confirmed that he lived there, they left. The next day, ICE agents arrived and arrested her husband.
Lowe realized that the woman’s husband had been in the sights of ICE undercover agents when she called a phone number the woman gave her. The woman told Lowe that a man purporting to be an insurance investigator had left the number with her earlier. The man who picked up the phone when Lowe called told her he worked for the federal government. When Lowe asked why the federal government had an interest in insurance, the caller admitted to being an ICE agent. As for the missionaries, Lowe said that a colleague of hers described similar ICE missionary disguises, reported in community meetings in Utah County, about an hour south.
When Aaron Tarin, the immigration attorney now representing the husband of the woman who came to see Lowe, called the local ICE office, the ICE supervisor’s exonerating evidence against the accusation was that such an action would be “political suicide” and “stupid.” Tarin, himself a Mormon, said, “If this gets out it could have a catastrophic effect on missionaries’ work in Utah, and it can really put missionaries in danger. Aliens could get hostile and offensive.”