Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) Chief Kevin Vogel announced in this morning’s press conference that the SCPD was misinformed about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raids that took place at the Beach Flats neighborhood and other residences across Santa Cruz County in the early morning of Feb. 13.
Despite assurance that it was strictly gang-related, there were individuals arrested or detained based solely upon their immigration status. Vogel said they were “misled” after lending resources, including the BearCat armored vehicle, to the federal raids.
Following the raid, SCPD Deputy Chief Dan Flippo said it was part of a five-year investigation with DHS and other local law enforcement into gang-related violence and alleged gang members, not immigration or documentation related.
However, Flippo said during today’s press conference there were 12 gang-related arrests and also 10 additional arrests and detentions of residents between between Santa Cruz County and Daly City who were targeted solely for their immigration status and not gang-related violence — despite Santa Cruz’s declaration as a sanctuary city.
DHS has since stated that 10 residents were initially detained due to their documentation status, but were released. One person remains in DHS custody as officials investigate the resident’s connection to criminal activity.
Vogel apologized to the community and said SCPD needed to rethink its relationship with DHS.
“We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust,” Vogel said.
Both the Board of Supervisors and Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously last month to reiterate and maintain the city and county of Santa Cruz’s sanctuary status — meaning that they will welcome and protect undocumented individuals by not providing residents’ immigration statuses or identification information to the federal government. Though this is not a mandated ordinance, Santa Cruz has been a sanctuary city for at least 30 years.
“DHS’s utter disregard and defiance of our sanctuary city status not only confirmed many of the fears and concerns that were expressed but has laid waste to our communities trust of our local government,” said Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Chase. “[…] There is no question that this action has torn families apart, and I am heartbroken by that.”
During the DHS raid earlier this month, SCPD maintained that it was strictly gang-related. The alleged gang members were arrested in Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Daly City and have been charged with offenses including drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit extortion by force, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I cannot tell you how disappointed I am by the betrayal of the Department of Homeland Security,” Vogel said. “[…] I want to underscore that we would have never participated or cooperated in this operation if we had known that it included immigration enforcement.”
Following the press conference, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta issued a statement saying he has followed up with DHS many times in regard to this incident to demand information and more transparency.
“The breakdown in trust between ICE and SCPD puts our communities at risk,” Panetta said in a statement. “People in our community are already rightfully fearful due to the administration’s recent anti-immigrant executive orders and directives.”
SCPD Deputy Chief Dan Flippo said DHS not only provided misinformation, but have also been unresponsive to SCPD.
“I have never experienced another law enforcement agency in my 25-year career provide me that much misinformation, and then after they provide the misinformation, refuse to communicate with me further,” Flippo said.
In the DHS’s statement released Thursday evening, ICE Spokesman for the San Francisco field office James Schwab disputed Vogel’s claims of being misled and reiterated that the agencies had collaborated closely over the last five years on this case.
“Allegations that the agency secretly planned an immigration enforcement action in hopes there would be new political leadership that would allow for an alleged “secret” operation to take place are completely false, reckless, and disturbing,” Schwab said.
He said that DHS informed SCPD that any “foreign nationals” encountered would be detained until the agency could determine their “identify and case history,” and that Vogel acknowledged this possibility beforehand.
City on a Hill Press will update this story as it develops.