Remember last month when ICE/Homeland Security rounded up 30 undocumented immigrants in Ellensburg? Lest anyone forget, OneAmerica and the Ellensburg Coalition for Humanity are planning a "Commemoration Rally" tomorrow night to protest the aggressive tactics used in the raid and raise awareness about families that have been affected.
The raids, in case you missed the news, took place early on the morning of January 20 in four Ellensburg trailer parks that cater to low-income Hispanic families. Fourteen people were arrested, virtually all on charges of use of unlawful immigration documents or for being illegal aliens in the United States after deportation. Another 16 people were detained on administrative immigration violations.
ICE, in coordination with local police, used a helicopter equipped with a searchlight during the operation. They also kicked down several doors and arrested several sets of parents, in some instances leaving their kids at home alone.
As we reported when it happened, the raid had a ripple effect on Ellensburg's economy. The city's hotels were particularly affected, with many of their housekeeping workers either detained or fleeing with their families in fear:
"It was kind of an interesting scenario last week," says Michael Burdick, a supervisor at the Ellensburg Holiday Inn Express. "I came in Thursday and we were missing six housekeepers. We actually called other hotels and they were missing their housekeepers as well. Both the Best Western and Quality Inn right next to us. It's like the whole town got wiped out. The workers have not come back. Some of them had been employed for well over two years. They had been steady employees and good workers."
Phillip Garrison, the director of APOYO, a food bank that offers aid to the needy among Ellensburg's Hispanic community, says the raid has sent many families into hiding.
"The trailer courts look like ghost towns," Garrison says. "There's nobody there. The question is if people have been picked up, or fled, or if they're hiding in their houses. People from there say 'I know everyone and they know everyone, but they're still not opening their doors.'"
Jazmin Santacruz, the Eastern Washington organizer for OneAmerica, says her organization has been handing out "Know Your Rights" pamphlets to immigrants in the area and trying to raise awareness about the families that were split up as a result of the arrests.
"People want answers as to why this happened, what's happened and what's going to happen to these children," Santacruz tells the Daily Weekly. "Those are the questions in a lot of people's minds. 'When is this going to happen again? Is it going to be us next time?' Although we can't prevent it from happening, we can at least have an emergency plan in place so it won't be as devastating [to families] as it was in Ellensburg."
The co-organizers of the event, the Ellensburg Coalition for Humanity, are a group of citizens working "to assist the children and families separated and displaced" by the raid. All the people arrested or detained in the raids are barred from working in the U.S., so the nonprofit Coalition is providing food and paying for basic services like utilities via donations they are taking on their website.
"There are families that need help," says Mark Holloway, a local business owner and co-founder of the Coalition. "It doesn't have anything to do with political stuff. We want to make sure these families and their kids can keep it together."