Miami – Pro-immigrant activists accused U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of ordering the deportation of two undocumented Guatemalans to try and cover up misconduct by ICE agents in a 2008 raid.
"Basically, in this case they are trying to deport the evidence: the Guatemalans are the evidence in our accusation of mistreatment of immigrants," the executive director of the group We Count!, Jonathan Fried, told Efe.
Adolfo García, 20, and Julio Díaz, 21, say they were beaten and kicked by ICE agents during an operation against people trafficking conducted in Homestead, south of Miami.
Both have until Friday to leave the United States.
"We have to consider the importance of doing away with the impunity of ICE and divulging the fact that (the agents) went against many people who had nothing to do with the operation. An undocumented person cannot be treated like an animal," Fried emphasized.
At this time, we can only conclude that ICE is trying to cover up the poor conduct of its agents and its failure to punish them.
- Romy Lerner, an attorney with Americans for Immigrant Justice
The Guatemalans' attorney, Romy Lerner, with Americans for Immigrant Justice, said that her clients were not involved in the people smuggling and that they did not have criminal records.
The agents arrested the then-17-year-olds for civil immigration violations.
Lerner said that they were mistreated even though they did not resist arrest. When they were transported to the detention center, the director there requested an investigation because the immigrants were bruised and bloody.
ICE spokesman in Miami Nestor Yglesias told Efe that the Professional Responsibility office investigated the allegations of the use of excessive force by the agents during the operation in 2008. The investigation, which concluded in October 2009, determined "that the accusations were baseless."
Lerner, however, says it recently emerged that an ICE supervisor who participated in the raid lied to investigators about what had happened.
"Specifically, the supervisor presented fraudulent sworn testimony to the U.S. Attorney's Office alleging that he was attacked by two of the residents (of one of the raided houses), but none of the agents corroborated his version," said the lawyer in a teleconference.
The authorities refused to file charges against the supervisor and the activists say that they know he is still working for ICE.
The pro-immigrant groups presented a complaint for alleged violation of civil rights to the Department of Homeland Security and requested a new investigation.
The activists also said that ICE refuses to make use of its discretion to extend by a year Díaz and García's authorization to remain in the United States.
"At this time, we can only conclude that ICE is trying to cover up the poor conduct of its agents and its failure to punish them," said Lerner.