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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"THEY TARGETED US FOR...OUR SKIN COLOR": Meeting to address raids; Immigration officials to be at town hall


September 14, 2010
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Federal immigration officials will be in town tonight to answer questions about recent raids at valley bus stations that angered some in the Hispanic community.

Representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- which conducted the July 29 raids -- and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will participate in a 6 p.m. town hall meeting at the East Las Vegas Community Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave., near Stewart Avenue.

"We have a lot of questions and I'm hoping we can get some answers," said Michael Flores, an immigrant rights activist with ProgressNow Nevada.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., organized the meeting after hearing concerns from community members about tactics used during the raids.

Witnesses said Border Patrol agents didn't promptly identify themselves and refused to answer questions from owners and managers of the bus stations that were targeted.

Emmanuel Corrales, owner of Las Vegas Shuttles, said he and other U.S. citizens who were his clients were harassed by agents because of their ethnicity. The agents arrested one person from Corrales' business.

"I'm not upset about them taking illegal aliens," he told the Review-Journal earlier this month. "I'm upset I have to prove I'm a U.S. citizen in my own office. They targeted us for only one thing, our skin color."

Agents arrested a total of 31 suspected illegal immigrants during the raids, which began at the same time immigration rights groups had gathered at a local church to celebrate a judge's decision to block the most controversial sections of a new Arizona immigration law.

Twelve of those arrested had criminal histories that included charges of theft, prostitution and burglary, or immigration-related offenses, a Border Patrol spokesman said. Some of the 31 were taken to a Border Patrol station for processing. Others were released pending upcoming immigration hearing dates or were deported.

Agents were in Las Vegas as part of an operation "aimed at disrupting human smuggling activities at transportation sites that are used as a means to further illegal trafficking into the interior of the United States," the federal agency said.

Las Vegas has become a hub increasingly used by smuggling organizations to transport people and drugs, the agency said. Such organizations have been forced by stepped-up identification requirements at airports to use bus lines instead.

ICE also is participating to answer any questions that might arise about its own procedures, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

"Any time issues relating to immigration enforcement come up, there are related questions about our policies and procedures," she said.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at or 702-383-0285.