Man jumps in Yampa River to flee from ICE agents amid local searches
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A man reportedly jumped in the Yampa River behind the Dream Island mobile home park Friday morning during a search by federal immigration agents.
About 6:20 a.m., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents requested assistance from the Steamboat Springs Police Department in finding the man after he disappeared in the water, according to Sgt. Shane Musgrave, who responded to the scene.
“We never made contact with that individual,” Musgrave said, explaining the Police Department’s primary concern was for the man’s safety.
“The river is still moving pretty quickly,” he added.
Roddy Beall, the interpretation and translator coordinator for Integrated Community, a local nonprofit that offers resources to immigrants, said his organization had received multiple reports of at least two ICE agents in town on Friday.
“It seems as though they were looking for one specific person, but potentially two,” he said.
As of Friday afternoon, he had not received a report that agents had detained anyone.
According to Musgrave, a biker on the Yampa River Core Trail saw a man, sopping wet, walk out of the river near the Dream Island neighborhood before police arrived.
How to reduce risk to yourself
- Stay calm. Don’t run, argue, resist or obstruct the officer, even if you believe your rights are being violated. Keep your hands where police can see them.
- Don’t lie about your status or provide false documents.
- You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or other officials. Anything you tell an officer can later be used against you in immigration court.
- If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you.
- If an immigration agent asks if they can search you, you have the right to say “no.” Agents do not have the right to search you or your belongings without your consent or probable cause.
- If you’re older than 18, carry your papers with you at all times. If you don’t have them, tell the officer that you want to remain silent, or that you want to consult a lawyer before answering any questions.
What to do in such an encounter
- In some states, you must provide your name to law enforcement if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you don’t have to answer other questions.
- If you are driving and are pulled over, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, but you don’t have to answer questions about your immigration status.
- Customs officers can ask about your immigration status when entering or leaving the country. If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has maintained your status, you only have to answer questions establishing your identity and permanent residency. Refusal to answer other questions will likely cause delay, but officials may not deny you entry into the U.S. for failure to answer other questions. If you are a noncitizen visa holder, you may be denied entry into the U.S. if you refuse to answer officers’ questions.
Source: The American Civil Liberties Union
Musgrave spoke with the ICE agents, who said they were looking for a man who lives in the neighborhood. The agents also searched for him at his place of employment, according to Beall. It is not clear if the man who jumped into the river is the person the agents were looking for.
ICE officials did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
Beall was careful not to call the searches a raid, which typically involves ICE agents going to a workplace suspected of employing people in violation of immigration laws and detaining many individuals. He instead referred to the incident as “routine law enforcement activity,” the result of a localized investigation.
“Generally, ICE is looking for a specific person that they have a deportation order for,” Beall explained. “Unfortunately, during the last few years, they have been willing to arrest other people that they come in contact with while they look for that specific person.”
For those who are not familiar with their rights, this can lead to people putting themselves at adverse risk when dealing with immigration agents. As Beall explained, any person, regardless of their citizenship status, has certain protections guaranteed by the Constitution. These include the right to refuse a law enforcement official’s request to enter their home without a signed warrant, as well as the right to refuse permission for an official to search their belongings or documents without a signed order.
ICE agents often have limited ability in speaking foreign languages to communicate with those they interrogate, including Spanish.
For those who are not native English speakers and are still learning the language, understanding exactly what is happening in these situations can be difficult, which could lead to self-incrimination. That often serves as an advantage to ICE agents.
“There have been reports around the country of immigration officers using strategies to increase the stress of the situation in order to get people to comply and make a mistake, like opening a door or presenting documents,” Beall said.
Nelly Navarro, the executive director of Integrated Community, which is based in Steamboat Springs and serves Northwest Colorado, said anytime ICE agents come to communities, it instills fear among immigrant populations, even for those who have legal documentation.
About 16.7 million people in the U.S. have at least one “unauthorized” person in their household, meaning they are in some violation of immigration law, according to a report from the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.
When those families hear about ICE conducting investigations, many take steps to keep themselves and their loved ones away from public areas, according to Navarro. That often means keeping children home from school or not going to work.
“They are afraid they will get pulled over or stopped by an ICE agent,” Navarro explained.
Her organization helps immigrants understand their rights and connects them with resources to maneuver immigration laws, as well as with other resources in the community.
Integrated Community is open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with additional appointments available outside these hours. Find more information at ciiccolorado.org.
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