A day after U.S. Border Patrol officials vowed to keep arresting illegal immigrants they find during Simi Valley police gang sweeps, Latino activists issued a letter calling for an end to the practice.
"It is irrational to combat illegal activity with illegal activity," states the letter, signed by Francisco Dominguez, executive director of El Concilio del Condado de Ventura, and Simi Valley attorney Michael A. Rodriguez, past president of the Mexican American Bar Assn. of Ventura County.
The letter accuses Border Patrol agents of violating 4th Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure by rousting entire families in homes they entered with Simi Valley police, who were looking for gang members.
"During the course of these so-called 'probation searches,' INS agents were detaining, arresting and questioning all persons in the dwelling," states the letter, addressed to Commissioner Doris Meissner, head of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol. "These raids often occurred very early in the morning, wrongfully disturbing entire families."
"Gang violence is a cancer of society," the letter states. "[But] this problem requires real solutions, not political expediency."
The Border Patrol last month suspended its role in the Simi Valley gang sweeps because it discovered a 17-year-old policy forbidding its agents from entering people's residences solely to search for "status offenders" such as undocumented immigrants.
But Border Patrol officials announced Tuesday they will take part in future Simi Valley gang sweeps on a more limited basis.
Agents will join in raids whenever they can find "probable cause" that lets them search for criminal illegal immigrants under the 4th Amendment, said Alan Dwelley, assistant sector chief of the Border Patrol for the region encompassing Ventura County.
Where they once let Simi Valley police pick out which homes for raids, the Border Patrol agents now will rely on their own investigations to choose only those homes occupied by illegal immigrants with criminal records, Dwelley said.
And as for the accusation that legally documented immigrants were disturbed in earlier raids, Dwelley said that the Border Patrol found and arrested illegal immigrants at virtually every house the Simi Valley police raided.