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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Six people in Madison were arrested by federal immigration authorities Friday, drawing heavy criticism from city officials and immigrants’ rights advocates.

Six people in Madison were arrested by federal immigration authorities Friday, drawing heavy criticism from city officials and immigrants’ rights advocates.

Immigration arrests in Madison prompt backlash from local officials

At least six people were arrested by federal immigration officials in Madison Friday, city officials and local Hispanic advocacy groups said.

Speaking at a press conference Friday afternoon, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said six people had been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee-based immigrant’s rights organization, released a statement Sunday that raised the total to nine arrests by ICE.

“It has been a targeted effort by ICE,” Soglin said. “They are going after specific individuals.”

Soglin and other city officials clarified that the city does not cooperate with ICE and insisted they had not been told about the arrests beforehand.

“This is completely contrary to city policy,” Soglin said. “We’re very disappointed in how ICE and the federal government are conducting themselves.”

ICE previously guaranteed they would notify Madison’s Assistant Police Chief Randy Gaber of any upcoming activity in the city, Chief of Police Mike Koval said. On Friday, they only notified the Dane County 911 Center, which is not affiliated with the Madison Police Department.

Koval said he spoke with ICE officials after becoming police chief in 2014 and told them Madison police would not take part in any civil deportation proceedings.

Executive Director of Centro Hispano of Dane County Karen Menendez Coller urged the Hispanic community not to be afraid of what they were hearing and to take advantage of assistance offered by the city government, including calling Dane County Immigration Affairs if affected.

“We’re ready for anything,” Coller said. “Needless to say, we’re devastated. We always are, but I think we’ve come to expect the worst.”

Soglin reaffirmed the commitment of the city of Madison and Dane County to protecting immigrants’ rights by devoting funds in the upcoming annual budget to providing legal assistance to affected individuals.

City Council President Samba Baldeh rebuked ICE for their actions, which he says have personally affected his friends.

“Everyone, in my opinion, is legal,” Baldeh said. “Why should we terrorize people? This is no less than terrorism in my opinion.”

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City alder and Madison mayoral candidate Maurice Cheeks added his voice on Twitter.

“ICE has proven a commitment to degrade human life, destroy families & distress the health of whole communities,” Cheeks said. “The City of Madison will not cooperate w/ ICE & our residents will not be silent as they swoop into our city like modern day slave catchers.”

Soglin said the city plans to hold another press conference soon to update the public on ICE activity, but did not have all the information on arrests at the time and would not be able to get it over the weekend.

“It’s very disappointing that they did this on a Friday,” he said. “It’s very disappointing that they did it at all.”

Soglin said he did not know who was arrested or on what charges, only that ICE believes them to have seriously broken the law. Despite this, Soglin said there is no indication the people arrested by ICE were wanted by Madison police. He also said he did not know where the arrested persons were being taken, as there are several places in Wisconsin and Illinois where they could be.

The city government sent out an email in Spanish, warning residents to be cautious and not to speak with ICE.

"We’re going to stand with these families,” Soglin said. “We are not going to be deterred from our mission.”

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