D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine is asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement for information about the agency’s recent arrests of as many as 12 District residents.
“Last week’ s incidents are precisely the kind that spark fear in our city ... and, more broadly, undermine the ability of our immigrant communities to participate fully in the civic life of the District,” Racine (D) wrote in a letter Thursday to Ronald D. Vitiello, the agency’s acting director.
Racine said he was seeking details about the arrests, which activists and local residents said they took place between July 9 and July 12 at a private home, local businesses and in front of an apartment complex in Columbia Heights, home to a significant Central American community.
In his letter, Racine was particularly concerned that federal agents targeted the neighborhood.
“Disturbingly, some reports suggest that individuals may have been apprehended indiscriminately or as a result of racial or ethnic profiling,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for ICE did not respond to a request for comment about the Attorney General’s letter.
In a statement days after the arrests, ICE spokesperson Justine M. Whelan said that agents do “not conduct raids or target individuals indiscriminately.”
Details of the arrests, the number and identities of those detained and the charges against them have not been made public. Spokespeople for Racine’s office and D.C. police said, as of Friday afternoon, ICE had not communicated with them about its enforcement actions.
“Transparency about the policies and procedures ICE follows when engaging in enforcement activity is central to the ability of our immigrant communities to feel secure here,” Racine wrote in the letter.
He requested that Vitiello send the Office of the Attorney General information on those taken into custody, along with the location where they are being held. Racine also asked for ICE policies on profiling, probable cause before detention and whether agents had to clearly identify themselves during enforcement actions. As of Friday afternoon, Racine’s office had not received a reply.
On Monday, several hundred immigrant rights activists, clergy and supporters held a demonstration in Columbia Heights, chanting “ICE out of D.C.!”
The Office of the Attorney General advised residents in English and Spanish language social media posts that they don’t have to allow ICE agents without warrants into their homes and they can demand a lawyer be present before they speak with ICE officials.
Racine’s latest challenge of the federal government’s immigration policies comes less than a month after he joined a group of 15 state attorneys general that sued the Trump Administration over its policy of separating families at the border.
The day before Racine sent his letter, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said in a statement that D.C. “is a sanctuary city” that protects “the rights and humanity of all our residents.”
“As a community, it is on all of us to stand up for our neighbors,” Bowser said.
Meanwhile, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, has requested a briefing from ICE to learn more about the arrests.