Without warning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents jumped out of a van on Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria earlier this month, and snatched about a half-dozen men. The raid shocked the largely Hispanic neighborhood, also known as Chirilagua, and merchants told The Alexandria Times this week that the arrests have caused a panic that severely damaged their businesses.
Elena Flores, the mother of one of the arrested men, said her son was a painter with no criminal record. Her son, Herlin Flores, 31, and nephew, Erick Carbajal, 21, were both arrested and held in ICE custody. “My son was basically my support system for me and my daughter,” Elena Flores told The Times’ David Sachs. “Now that the rent and the bills are coming, and are high, I don’t know what to do.”
So I contacted ICE and asked them if they were conducting random roundups of suspected illegal immigrants. Spokeswoman Cori Bassett said agents “administratively arrested” Flores and Carbajal “as part of a law enforcement operation targeting known gang members and associates.” Or, no.
Bassett said Flores and Carbajal were arrested as part of Operation Community Shield, which has picked up more than 22,000 gang members nationwide since 2005. ICE uses its civil enforcement authority to remove gang members who are here illegally, “preventing them from committing further crimes in our neighborhoods,” Bassett said.