ICE detentions hit Kern

Organizations and lawyers confirm many detentions

LAMONT, Calif. - Immigration and Customs Enforcement detaining undocumented immigrants is not a new story.

But Kern County lawyers, activists, and community members say this series of raids, detentions and deportations feels different, and seriously intensified. 

Yulie Gonzalez is used to having dozens of people in her Lamont restaurant El Fogon early every morning.

Between four and six, field workers flood in for coffee and breakfast Gonzalez said. 

But this week that changed. 

Her shop has been empty, she says, because much of the undocumented field worker population is terrified of ICE.

"As of Monday we started receiving lots of calls from the community in regards to ICE detentions," explained Fatima Hernandez from the United Farm Workers Foundation in Bakersfield.

The UFW Foundation says it has confirmed at least 23 individuals have been detained from Central Valley Fields.

"They've been stopped on their way to work, five o'clock in the morning between five and six they're being pulled over by ICE. it's not the police, it's not highway patrol," said Hernandez.

Hernandez said some have already been deported. 

"I don't know where that number's coming from but I can tell you we've had many more than 24 calls from different families that say their individual has been detained," said Bakersfield Immigration Attorney Win Eaton, adding his phone has not stopped ringing.

"A young lady yesterday was in the chair that you're sitting right now. She's in her early thirties, she's been here for more than 18 years in the United States. She has four U.S. citizen born children ranging from 9 months to 9-years-old. There's no criminal history with her or her husband --her husband has just been detained...she was weeping almost uncontrollably, I can't even tell the story...without it emotionally affecting me," said Eaton.

ICE would not comment specifically on Kern Friday, but in a press release ICE said it has no choice but to continue "at large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites."

ICE cites California passing a so-called 'Sanctuary State' bill, prohibiting local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE.

"It's as if all fury has been unleashed on the immigrant community," said Eaton.  

So how is the Latino community of Lamont?

Frightened and afraid," says Gonzalez. 

The UFW Foundation and the Central Valley Immigration Integration Collaborative both urge folks to call them to make sure they understand their rights if ICE comes to their door.

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