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RACINE — “ICE leadership has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official made that statement Thursday to The Journal Times following an inquiry about the recent reported arrests of five undocumented immigrants in Racine.

Recent high-profile arrests by ICE of undocumented immigrants, who reportedly were in the country illegally, have caused an uproar in the Racine community.

In response to questions, the ICE official, who declined to be named, stated, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. In fact, of the 143,470 arrests ICE made in FY17, 73.7 percent were criminal aliens, and 15.5 percent were aliens with pending criminal charges. We will continue to target criminal aliens whenever and however they come to our attention.”

The official continued: “That being said, as ICE leadership has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.”

On July 24, Ricardo Fierro was at his Racine home after leaving his mother’s house and was arrested by ICE officers. Fierro first came to the United States legally as a teenager with his family in 1995 but the family overstayed its visa. According to ICE, Fierro was deported to Mexico in August 1997. He later illegally returned to the country.

Two weeks after Fierro’s arrest, four more Racine residents, who were reportedly here illegally, also were arrested by ICE, according to the Racine Interfaith Coalition. That includes the arrest of Elpidio Ruiz Hernandez. The names of the other three who were arrested have not yet been confirmed.

According to Wisconsin court records, Fierro was cited for driving without a license this past February and in 2015. Ruiz-Hernandez was cited for driving without a license in 2017 and 1996. They don’t have any other criminal record, according to Wisconsin court records.

Reaction from statement

Linda Boyle, co-president of Racine Interfaith Coalition, has been one of the key organizers in support of the undocumented immigrants who have been arrested.

Upon hearing the statement from ICE, Boyle said she is not surprised but she is upset.

“We’re not going to change the fight,” Boyle said. “But I do feel defeated in this moment. There is no way that this is good. I’m shocked. I’m totally shocked that there are no pathways for people that are stopped.”

Racine Mayor Cory Mason, who wrote a letter to ICE about Fierro’s good character, said, “My 7-year-old asked me why the government is putting children in cages and taking parents away from their families in the middle of the night. It breaks my heart that she has to ask that about her country.”

He continued, “I still believe in an America where immigrants can come from all over the world to innovate as entrepreneurs and embrace liberty — that certainly is Racine’s story. As long as I am mayor, Racine will continue to be a City where we welcome all people, regardless of their race or national origin.”

State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, who also wrote a letter on behalf on Fierro, said her understanding is that President Donald Trump “has authorized ICE to deport any undocumented immigrant in the community.”

“Ricardo Fierro and others like him should be given a pathway to citizenship,” Neubauer said. “I think it is inhumane to take people out of the communities that they have known for so long.”

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave, who also wrote a letter on behalf of Fierro, declined to comment Thursday about the ICE statement.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights advocacy group in Milwaukee, said ICE is “under the Trump administration and with this recent statement it’s made it very clear that everyone is a target.”

“Which means that immigrant youth that have grown up here may not have the opportunity to apply for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), they are vulnerable,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “They use charged words like ‘criminal’ to really label people to be able to dehumanize them.”

Attempts to reach House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, were unsuccessful.

An official with Sen. Ron Johnson’s office said they can’t speak for ICE or the Trump administration and referred comment to the Department of Homeland Security or the White House.

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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