Hoaxes, rumors of local ICE arrests are false

Claims circulate in, but immigration agency says Mountain View and surrounding areas are not currently targeted

Rumors of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent sightings in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park are untrue, ICE spokesman and East Palo Alto police spokespeople said.

East Palo Alto's residents, about two-thirds of whom are immigrants mainly from Mexico and the Pacific Islands, besieged police and school district officials with calls regarding the rumors, which began to spread on Friday, Feb. 24, officials said. They ranged from alerts through emails and Twitter to a bogus photograph of Department of Homeland Security vehicles on Facebook.

ICE operations are not taking place in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View or Palo Alto, agency spokesman James Schwab said. These kinds of rumors "make issues for the community at large and the ICE officers and it is taking up valuable resources for local police," he added.

The original rumor, that men wearing jackets emblazoned with ICE on the back and dressed in khaki pants had stopped someone at the Shell gas station on University Avenue at Bell Street, set off alarms through East Palo Alto. Community networks warned people of the sighting. The purported agents allegedly approached an individual at the gas station and asked to see his papers, according to a letter posted on Twitter by an unnamed source.

Other alleged sightings indicated ICE agents were waiting in front of East Palo Alto elementary schools; at a checkpoint at the Chevron gas station on University Avenue; and in Menlo Park along intersections of Willow Road.

A Facebook post showed two Department of Homeland Security field operations squad cars parked on a street purported to be in East Palo Alto.

Except that the buildings and streetlights shown in the image are not in East Palo Alto, police confirmed.

"Totally not East Palo Alto," police Commander Jeff Liu said.

One Twitter posting claimed that an immigration workshop scheduled at a community center for Friday was canceled because of the sightings.

The letter posted on Twitter discussing the purported Shell station sighting explained that an earlier alert sent through its email network was based on a reported sighting of ICE agents and a coincidental sighting of an ICE vehicle either at the gas station or stopped while traveling eastbound toward the Dumbarton Bridge. The letter sought to clarify that police had spoken to ICE and there were no agent operations in East Palo Alto.

The message also claimed that police are concerned that persons might be impersonating ICE officers to extort money from victimized immigrants. But Liu did not specifically confirm that concern.

"We explore all options every time one of these rumors surfaces. We have no evidence that anything related to these rumors have any factual basis," he said in text messages. The rumors "have put a lot of people in a state of unnecessary fear and stress."

Police don't know whether any part of this rumor is true, including the presence of an ICE van refueling. "A number of things could have started this rumor and nothing has been ruled out," he said.

Addressing concerns of potential extortion, Schwab did not rule out that impersonators could potentially commit such crimes, but ICE agents do not demand money from anyone. If people think someone is trying to shake them down or might be impersonating an ICE officer, the victim should not give them any money; they should contact their local police department immediately.

ICE does have a community relations officer who can confirm if operations are taking place in an area. But Schwab stressed that the general public should not contact the officer, as the department cannot respond to general calls. The contact number is for local governments, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations only. The general public should contact local leaders and officials for information if they are concerned. Local governments and community nonprofit groups can contact the community relations officer at 415-844-5866; 415-745-5208 or by email at

ICE has conducted at least one well-publicized operation in the Bay Area that appears to have sparked rumors throughout Bay Area immigrant communities. On Feb. 13, ICE Homeland Security Investigations led a multiple-agency operation involving federal search and arrest warrants at 11 locations. The action was part of an ongoing criminal investigation targeting alleged criminal activity by suspected members of a notorious transnational gang, the department said in a statement provided by Schwab. The operation was the culmination of a five-year investigation, which resulted in the arrest of 10 criminal organization members on federal criminal charges in Santa Cruz, Daly City, and Watsonville.

During that operation, 11 additional undocumented persons were detained when ICE officers arrived at the locations. They were initially held on administrative immigration violations due to their association with suspected members of a transnational street gang. But 10 of those individuals were released. One remains in agency custody due to his criminal history and possible ties to the ongoing investigation, the statement said.

The statement stressed that juveniles were never left unattended at any time during the operations.

The ICE Special Agent-in-Charge office in San Francisco notified the Santa Cruz police chief that any non-targeted foreign nationals encountered during the enforcement actions at the search and arrest locations would be held briefly until the agency could determine their identities and case histories. The Santa Cruz Police Department did not take custody of any of these people or place them in their facility or police vehicles.

Rumors that came out of that operation, some of which appeared politically based, are "completely false, reckless, and disturbing," the statement said.

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33 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 7:25 am

It seems like the Voice has done a fine job as well of spreading rumors with misleading headlines. Only once you've read the articles do you find it's all smoke and no fire. At least some of the articles point out that under Obama there were more deportations in decades. That's because one of Obama's biggest support groups were African Americans who are opposed to illegal immigration. ICE went after criminals. The current administration has stated it will do the same. What is President Trump supposed to say? The US will not expel immigrants who have committed criminal acts should all be allowed to say?

One thing I agree with in this article is that the rumors appear to be politically based. "Completely false, reckless, and disturbing". Either way four years of such a strategy by the opposition to Trump of arguing for law-breaking and the rights of non-citizens and even refugees who haven't even stepped foot in the country, is bound to backfire. He will be in office for eight years.

Other than that, I sense many of the more wealthy in Mountain View are just upset at the prospect of losing the great deals they've been getting on day care, gardening, handy-man work etc., that many illegal immigrants provide without any social security benefits or health care. And many owners of service industry businesses are probably upset at the specter of falling profit margins once built on the backs of exploited illegal immigrants.

14 people like this
Posted by "Liberal"
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 7:47 am

Our noted local "liberal," @Onserver...

23 people like this
Posted by @Observer
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 28, 2017 at 9:15 am

How about this: Web Link

The fact of the matter is that DHS and the Republicans in charge have shown that they cannot be trusted. They've lied to local law enforcement about the scope of their actions, yet we're supposed to trust that they're only rounding up people committing crimes, in spite of evidence to the contrary. This is part of a deliberate misinformation with one goal, to make our neighbors scared of being rounded up and removed from their homes.

This doesn't make us safer, it just destroys communities, and your constant concern-trolling and water-carrying for Republicans is disgusting.

5 people like this
Posted by Submit to his will
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2017 at 10:01 am

the sheep are easily led. Baaa baaa are our leader. Corruption does not matter, Russia does not matter, tax returns showing personal investments do not matter. All that matters is that the republicans don't look bad again....again, and if they do, we'll deny it like we deny everything else factually proven if it makes us look bad.

We'll see how far this gets them.

24 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 11:49 am


The raids don't make us safer? Should the police just conduct raids against known American citizens or never conduct any raids at all? This raid was based on a case 5 years in the making.

The raids are the result of a phone call in October 2011. A Santa Cruz police officer received a tip from an El Salvadoran citizen about MS-13 members selling drugs and threatening people, Flippo said. That lead evolved with tips of businesses “being extorted on Ocean Street” and reports of armed gang members by spring 2012, he added. Given the “large scope of the investigation” and its international nexus, Homeland Security became the lead agency at that time.

Go figure.

29 people like this
Posted by @Observer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 11:59 am

"Flippo detailed a narrative of what he called “misinformation” from the federal agency. Flippo said he learned during a Feb. 14 Santa Cruz City Council meeting that not all arrests were related to gang-related criminal allegations, leading him to push Homeland Security contacts for further information. He said it was a surprise that some detainments were not related to criminal allegations."

Yeah, let's trust DHS and the Republicans on this, they only lied to our local law enforcement agencies and are deliberately minimizing the announced scope of their operations.

20 people like this
Posted by Another 4
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 28, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Like Observer said, you keep up support of illegal behavior, fear mongering and ridiculous hysterical overreactions to everything and and trumps going to get another 4 years.

33 people like this
Posted by @Another 4
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, I see we've arrived at the last stop on the argument train, when someone has been thoroughly owned, "this is why Trump won!"

Keep supporting federal agencies lying to our local law enforcement, it shows exactly how much you care for rule of law and how much it's about your need for a strongman.

27 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm

The record and case history will show that federal agents are far better trained and have a far better history of supporting individual rights and holding themselves accountable than do local law enforcement agencies. Most abuse of power and violation of human rights in law enforcement occurs at the local level.

27 people like this
Posted by @Observer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Man dying in plane crash: "The record and case history shows you are much more likely to die in a car accident than in an airplane."

Your reasoning is faulty.

9 people like this
Posted by p
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 1, 2017 at 10:46 am

When someone has broken the law and is caught, should the authorities just let them go because they aren't the initial target of the investigation? If you find that one of the passengers in a car that has caused an accident is a bank robber or sexual predator, should we just let them go because the car accident was the reason for the police to be there initially? That is insane.

Like it or not, illegal immigrants have broken the law and, if the authorities find them, they should be processed just like any other law-breaker. It stands to reason that, in some cases, when illegal aliens who have also broken other laws are apprehended, they will sometimes be in the company of other illegal aliens. Personally, I consider it a waste of my tax dollars if the police don't deal with ALL the people they find who are breaking laws. It is astounding that anyone thinks it okay for the police to just ignore criminal activity just because they personally don't like the law. I've tolerated that for 8 years and more and it's time for that to stop.

You don't like the law? Then go through the legal process to change it. Until then, the authorities are duty-bound to enforce those laws and anyone who thinks otherwise is ignoring the rule of law.

11 people like this
Posted by @p
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2017 at 10:57 am

So if a domestic abuse victim comes in to a police station to report that crime, should the police check their immigration status?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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