In Arizona three Valley high school students were deported to Mexico after a Gilbert police officer stopped the car they were in for drag racing and called federal immigration officials.
A federal immigration official called the deportations of the three juveniles “very uncommon.” The head of the Gilbert Human Relations Commission questioned whether the students were victims of racial profiling.
The deportations come at a time when several local law enforcement agencies have agreed to partner with federal immigration officials to enforce immigration laws, raising fears in immigrant communities that routine traffic stops could lead to large-scale deportations.
Gilbert is not one of the communities partnering with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Lt. Joe Ruet, a spokesman for the Gilbert Police Department, said the three juveniles were occupants of a 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse that was stopped for drag racing on North Velero Street near Guadalupe Road at 11:12 p.m. Saturday.
The officer called ICE after the driver, Jaime Cisneros, 16, of Chandler, said he didn”t have an Arizona driver”s license but did own a Mexican driver”s license, although he was not carrying it, Ruet said. Police charged Cisneros with exhibition of speed and criminal speed, both misdemeanors, he said.
Ordinarily, Gilbert police do not ask questions related to immigration status, he said.
However, officers have discretion to contact ICE if they have reason to believe someone is in the country illegally. Cisneros” statement that he had a Mexican driver”s license “opened the door,” he said.
The officer turned the three juveniles over to ICE officials, who confirmed that the teens were in the country illegally. The students were returned to Mexico after officials from the Mexican Consulate”s Office interviewed them, said Lauren Mack, an ICE spokeswoman. In each case, a parent was also contacted, she said.
In September, ICE officials in Arizona instituted a policy to respond to every call from local police departments to pick up undocumented immigrants involved in criminal activity, Mack said. The policy was instituted in response to complaints from local police departments that ICE officials weren”t doing their job.
Since then, the agency has responded 441 times to calls from 39 law enforcement agencies and picked up 2,408 “deportable criminals,” she said.
Only two or three of those calls, however, have involved unaccompanied juveniles, she said.
“It”s very uncommon,” she said.
Tami Smull, who chairs the Gilbert Human Relations Commission, said she was not aware of the incident, but she expressed concern.
“It would sadden me if this was a racial-profiling event by a patrolman,” she said. “It does demand additional answers.”
Smull said she planned to bring the matter up at the commission”s next meeting in April.
Jorge Solchaga, head of the protection unit at the Consul General of Mexico in Phoenix, identified the other students as Johany Nafarrate, 17, of Chandler, and Omar Galvez, 16. His residence was not known.
Solchaga said the three said they live in the Valley with their families and attend high school here. He could not recall which school the students said they attend.
From Daniel Gonzlez
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 15, 2007 12:00 AM