Photo: Scene of Incident (Orange County Register)
Pro-immigrant activists are fighting for the release of an undocumented Mexican arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just as he was about to defend himself in a local court with alleged evidence of abuse by police in California’s Orange County.
The organizations and the Mexican’s family say the Santa Ana Police Department is violating the guidelines that block collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and ICE.
Edgar Vargas, 27, was arrested June 20 by SAPD officers for trespassing on private property. The case became notorious after a video came to light showing cops beating and kicking him.
Vargas was charged with felony assault on a police officer and was on his way to court for a preliminary hearing when ICE agents intercepted him.
“It’s really strange that the same day he was going to present a video in court showing he had been the victim of police, here comes the ICE and they arrest him,” Vargas’s mother Olivia Arzate told Efe.
For public defender Frank Bittar, who is representing Vargas in the assault case, ICE’s intervention looks very suspicious. “I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested on his way to appear before a judge,” he said.
For Erika Martinez, spokesperson for the ICE organization out of O.C. (Orange County), Vargas’s arrest is a clear example of the collaboration existing between local and federal authorities.
ICE says, however, that in this case it received no information from the SAPD.
According to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice, the arrest of the undocumented Mexican was carried out thanks to the program for identifying foreigners with criminal records - to which were added in this case two previous deportations.
ICE had no knowledge of the local court case Vargas had pending, but once informed, it decided to hold up the deportation, Kice told Efe.
The ACLU of Southern California is also investigating the case.