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Madison law enforcement, local leaders condemn ICE’s tactics as number of arrests rise

September 25, 2018

An “aggressive knock” on the door by men identifying themselves as police led to the arrest of a family breadwinner, who was arrested, handcuffed and led out of his Milwaukee home in his boxers.

The men turned out to be federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents, who arrested and detained Erick Gambao Chay Friday morning based on a couple of traffic violations, according to his niece, Gissell Vera.

Gamboa Chay had previously been stopped for driving without a license, which he didn’t obtain because he is an undocumented immigrant.

The agents, who did not allow Vera’s uncle to change his clothing, told Gambao Chay that he had misbehaved and didn’t “have the right to be here anymore.”

Gambao Chay’s children, along with his wife, initially hid in the home’s attic out of fear. Agents drew them out to the front door where they pleaded with the agents to let Gambao Chay stay.

The oldest son, 8, offered to take his father’s place. The middle son, 4, asked agents when they would bring his dad home. His wife does not work because she provides constant care to their youngest son, a 1-year-old with sickle-cell anemia.

Agents asked why the family was crying as they embraced one final time, according to Vera. Then, the men stripped Gambao Chay from his family’s arms.

Vera, who was not at home at the time of the arrest, learned these details from her aunt, who she drove around the city Friday, helping translate as the two tried to find a way to put their family back together.

Vera shared her story at a Monday news conference twice — once in English, once in Spanish — to the roughly 300 people drawn to the event at Centro Hispano, which provides services and programs to Dane County’s Latino community.

“In an instant, my uncle was gone,” Vera said. “It’s just chaos.”

Local law enforcement and elected representatives stood in solidarity with Vera and others affected by the ICE detentions.

More than two dozen people across Wisconsin were arrested by ICE in the last week, according to Voces de La Frontera, a Milwaukee-based immigrant-rights group.

Fourteen of the 25 arrests the group confirmed took place in Dane County, said communications coordinator Sam Singleton-Freeman. Other arrests occurred in Arcadia (4), Milwaukee (3), Waukesha (2), Wausau (1) and Green Bay (1).

Last week, Madison police chief Mike Koval said the department has an agreement with ICE to know the location, time, date and charges to be filed when arrests are made — an agreement broken by ICE when agents arrested six people in the Madison area without talking to Madison police beforehand.

That number grew over the weekend, spurring leaders Monday to condemn the agency’s tactics, such as not clearly identifying themselves as ICE agents.

“We were lied to,” Vera said.

ICE failing to provide a heads-up to the Madison Police Department or Dane County Sheriff’s Office puts the community in a potentially dangerous situation, Sheriff Dave Mahoney said.

The lack of notification also challenges the trust law enforcement has worked so hard to establish within immigrant communities, he said.

To date, ICE has not contacted any local law enforcement, Mahoney said.

Madison police assistant chief Randy Gabriel added that ICE abandoning its agreement with the department means police cannot inform the community.

And neither can congressmen, according to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who said his office is getting “no information” other than calls back from one office directing him to another. ICE has not provided his office with a list of people the agency has detained.

“The fact that we can’t get information as your federal representatives is frustrating,” he said.

ICE has not responded to multiple calls and emails from the Wisconsin State Journal since Friday.

Pocan called ICE an “increasingly rogue agency that is significantly off its mission,” by going after people with parking tickets and conducting raids at workplaces.

One audience member asked why local law enforcement did not arrest ICE agents for violating the city’s sovereignty.

Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said the reality is the country operates under a federal system.

She and Voces de La Frontera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz encouraged everyone to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

“This is not just about Trump,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “It’s about who’s helping him. You have the ability to get those people out of office.”

Madison mayor Paul Soglin said the city is now one of about a dozen experiencing an “unwelcome presence” by ICE and he plans to discuss it with other “sanctuary cities” at a national mayors conference later this week in South Carolina.

“The city of Madison has historically welcomed all people,” Soglin said. “This action by the ICE agents is not going to deter us one bit from the commitments we’ve made and we are going to insist ICE stay away. They’ve done more harm than good.”

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