COLUMBIA, MD. (WJZ) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested several people up Wednesday morning in Columbia.
Witnesses say an Exxon in Columbia was the site of immigration enforcement, where six people were arrested– though ICE would not comment on any specific enforcement.
“Normally, around this time, some of the guys are already here, but I haven’t seen them today. So, I might be able to get a better idea who they are,” said Frankie Lopez.
A Howard County Police spokesperson said ICE contacted them Wednesday morning about enforcement activity, adding ICE did not request any assistance- nor did county police offer.
Locals said many immigrants gather at the Exxon gas station, awaiting work with local construction and landscaping companies.
“These are really good people. They have families. They’re not here committing crimes and stuff like that,” Lopez said.
ICE did say in a statement that anyone in violation of immigration laws may be subject to deportation.
Wednesday’s activity comes on the heels of President Trump announcing an increase in deportations, which included Baltimore.
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“I understand the legal aspect as far as being here in the United States, but if they’re good families, we have to work with people,” Lopez said.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said they learned there was ICE activity in the county Wednesday morning.
He clarified that these were not raids, but “specific, standard criminal enforcement operation, not a raid or sweep,”
Ball said he wanted to assure every resident that Howard County opposes the criminalization of undocumented people and said their priority continues to be the safety and security of everyone in the community.
He added that the officers do not ask residents about their immigration status, nor do they contact ICE if they learn of a civil violation of federal immigration laws.
“Our community will not be baited by fear and we must hold tight to our shared value of compassion. Howard County stands united against hate and in solidarity with one another.” Ball said.
Lizette Olmos, of an immigration advocacy group called Casa, said that the damage had already been done.
“There was just a lot of confusion in the community because people were hearing that people were taking individuals from cars, or right after they were trying to get into work,” Olmos said.
Sunday, President Trump tweeted that ICE will start “big deportations” in two weeks.
Casa said they will continue to work with people who are here illegally to teach them what rights they have in the country, which includes the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney if they are arrested by ICE.
Casa also said that it has a hotline to report ICE activity. The number is 855-678-Casa.