Immigration Advocates Accuse ICE of Retaliating Against Activism

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Immigration activists are accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of targeting them, NPR reported Sunday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a group that works to defend the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, told NPR they had identified more than 20 instances of immigration activists or volunteers being arrested or fined by ICE, and claimed the agency only became aware of them because of their activism.

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"We're always at the marches and giving interviews, without fear of what could happen," Zully Palacios Rodriguez, one activist caught by ICE, told NPR. "So to go against us is a way to intimidate the community.”

ICE has denied these accusations, saying that all people who are violating immigration laws “may be subject to arrest, detention and ... removal from the United States." Matthew Albence, executive associate director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations said, "ICE does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make," in a statement to NPR. "Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate."

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Immigration groups sued ICE earlier in February for allegedly targeting immigration activists for possible deportation. Two activists who had been arrested were included in the lawsuit, including Ravi Ragbir, who was arrested in January after contesting a deportation order since 2006.

These allegations come amid an immigration crackdown by the Trump administration. The Department of Justice sued California earlier this month over the state's so-called sanctuary laws, which encourage cities to not cooperate with federal immigration officials.