EAST PALO ALTO — This community is taking the lead in San Mateo County to stand up against what it feels are unfair tactics used in a federal program to deport illegal immigrants.

Earlier this month, the Ravenswood City School District board passed a resolution condemning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, which netted several people in the Redwood City area recently.

On Tuesday, the East Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to consider a similar resolution.

The efforts in East Palo Alto follow other such actions taken elsewhere in the Bay Area, including those in San Francisco and Marin counties.

Meanwhile, a newly formed immigrant advocacy group was planning to draft a resolution that local officials in San Mateo County would sign denouncing the federal sweeps.

East Palo Alto leaders have taken that step already.

"I know that the federal officials are doing their business, but we need them to do it professionally," Ravenswood Trustee Marcelino Lopez said.

Lopez said the board signed off on its resolution unanimously. He said a key concern was that the raids break up families by taking a parent away.

"The impact to the kids is irreversible."

Lopez said he hopes the Council will pass its own resolution.

"We need to be together on this," he said.

Mayor David Woods echoed some of Lopez's sentiments.

"There is a concern when you have one bread winner in the family who is taking care of his family and he is taken away," Woods said. "It does more damage.


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Councilman Ruben Abrica, who drafted the proposed non-binding measure for his colleagues to consider, added that he takes issue with federal agents identifying themselves as police to local residents although he understands they are also law enforcement.

That just erodes the trust local police are trying to build with the community, Abrica said.

ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said agents don't pose as local police although they do use the term "police" because it's universally understood for law enforcement.

"But there is no desire to mislead or misrepresent," she said. She also said that if an operation will encounter children, agents make arrangements to ensure they "are taken care of." She said communities are free to express their concerns, but "it doesn't change federal law and the enforcement of federal law."

In the past five months, the federal agency has arrested about 1,000 undocumented immigrants in Northern California, according to Virginia Kice, another ICE spokeswoman.

"About 60 percent have ignored court orders to leave the country," Kice said. "In some cases, the order has been ignored for years."

The local raids are just part of a nationwide enforcement program.

Recently, San Francisco and Marin county supervisors and the Richmond Council voted on measures opposing the raids. Organizers of the newly established Redwood City Immigrant Rights Coalition have said they plan to draft a similar measure. They said they would pass on the measure to Redwood City and San Mateo County leaders to sign.

Redwood City Mayor Barbara Pierce said the city is not interfering with the federal enforcement program. However, local police "are enforcing the law in terms of criminal behavior, not immigration status," she said.

San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill said he and his colleagues would study the merits of such a resolution if it comes to the board. But Hill said he does have concerns that the raids disrupt families and community-building efforts by local law enforcement.

"I think there could be improvements," Hill said.

Staff writer Neil Gonzales covers Redwood City, Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto. He can be reached at (650) 306-2427 or by e-mail at ngonzales@sanmateocountytimes.com.