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Latinos, Border Patrol Have Calm Meeting Over Arrests

Community leaders call discussion in Claremont a positive step toward ending recent 'raids.'

June 18, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

U.S. Border Patrol agents, under scrutiny for the arrests of nearly 200 suspected illegal immigrants in Corona and Ontario this month, met with community leaders Thursday and agreed to relay their concerns to higher-ups in San Diego and Washington, officials said.

Agents said they will continue to enforce immigration laws and conduct arrests, but have also agreed to hold a town meeting pending approval from the Department of Homeland Security, said Sean Isham, supervising Border Patrol agent for the San Diego sector.

"It was a very cordial and calm meeting," Isham said. "They expressed their concerns, and we let them know how we were operating. Until we get word from higher up to stop doing something, we're going to continue to enforce the immigration laws."

The meeting, held at the Our Lady of Assumption Church in Claremont and closed to the media, was hailed by community leaders as a positive step toward ending the arrests of suspected illegal immigrants in Latino neighborhoods away from the border.

"We consider this a victory for our community," said Jose Calderon, a Pitzer College professor. "We intend to put pressure on Congress and our political representatives in Washington to ensure that ... there is pressure to stop the raids."

The arrests are not part of a new national immigration policy, officials have said, but merely a change in tactics by one station in Temecula.

The arrests, by a Mobile Patrol Group, are the result of intelligence gathering, Isham said, and have been limited to Corona and Ontario in the Inland Empire and Escondido, Poway and Rancho Bernardo in San Diego County.

"I think that the Spanish radio is contributing to this hysteria," Isham said. "All their information is false. We're not in Pasadena, Van Nuys, Huntington Park.... You would have to have a mobile patrol group of a thousand people to operate the way they say we've operated."

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