Posted by on February 14, 2017
Categories: California


(BANT) – Santa Cruz police last night responded to community concerns over the nature of U.S. Department of Homeland Security raids in the area earlier Monday, saying they were not associated with any immigration or deportation case but rather a five-year investigation into a criminal street gang.

Santa Cruz police said that the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement had arrested 12 alleged gang members on suspicion of offenses including murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

Law enforcement officials seized guns during the arrests, which were the result of a five-year investigation into the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang.

Immigrant rights group Sanctuary Santa Cruz held an emergency meeting Monday after starting to receive calls around 4:30 a.m. about a heavy presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police in Santa
Cruz. They dispatched organizers to observe, according to University of California at Santa Cruz sociology professor Paul Johnston, who was one of the organizers.

“This event has generated a lot of panic,” following reports of ICE raids in Southern California and elsewhere around the country last week, Johnston said.

He stressed that while he had received a steady stream of reports since early this morning, much of it is still unconfirmed.

ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, did not provide any information about their possible involvement in the raids, but Santa Cruz police issued a statement this evening indicating that a dozen
members of MS-13 had been arrested as part of a long-term investigation that was launched after a community member reported they had been a victim of extortion.

The investigation was supported and later led by Department of Homeland Security Investigations, according to police.

Monday’s arrests were made as DHS officers worked with local police from Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Santa Clara and Daly City to serve warrants at 12 residences in Santa Cruz County and Daly City.

Some families were detained during the warrant service, but police said that no family members or children were arrested as part of the operation.

“The Santa Cruz Police Department is extraordinarily aware of the fear that exists in our community regarding immigration raids,” police said in a statement.

“This operation was not associated with enforcement of federal immigration nor deportation investigations. The City of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Police Department does not and will not participate in immigration
enforcement or arrests,” police said. “The men arrested during today’s operation were all members of a violent criminal organization that has preyed upon and threatened the community.”

Police said they have reached out to stakeholder groups “to ensure they understand the City has not and will not participate in immigration enforcement.”

Any further updates will be coming from the Department of Homeland Security, according to police.