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Border & Immigration

Transit Officials Deny Knowledge Of ICE Operations At Transit Center

Members of Alianza Comunitaria protested a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation at the Escondido Transit Center, March 21, 2018.
Matt Hoffman/KPBS
Members of Alianza Comunitaria protested a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation at the Escondido Transit Center, March 21, 2018.

After agents were seen putting people in handcuffs into buses at the Escondido Transit Center, community group Alizana Comunitaria alleges the North County Transit District knew about a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation in San Diego County.

ICE officials said 115 people were recently arrested in San Diego and Imperial counties after a three-day enforcement operation. ICE said people arrested had violated federal immigration laws and 50 were convicted criminals.

An NCTD spokeswoman said the transit district did not know about the operation nor were they contacted by ICE to use NCTD property.

Alianza Comunitaria said they were tipped off that the ICE operation could be using a parking lot at the Escondido Transit Center last week. The NCTD uses the Escondido Transit Center for its buses and trains.

"I’ve been on the Sprinter," Arturo Venegas said. "But it was unusual for me to see two charter buses in the back (parking lot)."

Venegas is part of Alianza Comunitaria, a group that uses volunteers to alert the community about checkpoints and raids in San Diego. Venegas spotted the agents at the Escondido Transit Center on March 13 and 14.

"I recorded one of the ICE agents taking someone from the smaller bus, to like the bigger charter buses," Venegas said.

The white buses parked at the Escondido Transit Center were part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation, March 14, 2018.
Arturo Venegas/Alianza Comunitaria
The white buses parked at the Escondido Transit Center were part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation, March 14, 2018.

KPBS confirmed that the unmarked vehicles were being used by ICE.

"During the operation ICE vehicles and transportation vans were in this area including parking in nearby public parking spots," an ICE spokeswoman said.

A rally was held at the Escondido Transit Center Wednesday — protesting the recent operation and alleging collusion between ICE and the NCTD.

"One of the questions that we’re looking at kind of exploring a bit more, is how these decisions are being made through the North County Transit District board. How ICE and Homeland Security is coming in to solicit support from these different local entities," said Arcela Nunez Alvarez, with Alianza Comunitaria. Alvarez is also research director for the National Latino Research Center.

But NCTD denies involvement in the ICE operation.

"Based on our discussions with NCTD’s Safety and Security Division Chief, who is responsible for coordinating with law enforcement agencies, NCTD had no prior knowledge of ICE activities being conducted on NCTD property, nor has NCTD been contacted by ICE to request authorization to utilize NCTD properties," an NCTD spokeswoman said.

Transit Officials Deny Knowledge Of ICE Operations At Transit Center
A recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation netted 115 arrests in San Diego and Imperial counties. Part of the operation took part at the Escondido Transit Center.

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