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Fake ICE Notices Urge Washington Residents to Report ‘Illegal Aliens’

 

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Originally published by NY Times

Jacey Fortain

Richard Byrne first saw the posters in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood on Thursday morning as he walked to a commuter train station.

The text-heavy fliers, plastered on streetlight poles and at bus stops, urged residents to report “illegal aliens” to the federal authorities. At first glance, the posters looked official. They included the logo of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and cited federal laws against harboring people who entered the country illegally.

But Mr. Byrne, a 51-year-old editor and playwright, was not fooled. “I saw six or seven of these fliers in the space of a block and a half, which is extraordinarily unusual,” he said in a telephone interview.

Within hours, ICE had disavowed the posters. Residents were removing them, and officials were criticizing the people — still unidentified — who put them up.

Mr. Byrne said he believed the culprits had made an odd choice of neighborhood. He described it as a residential area toward the southern end of the city, with some diversity but no large immigrant population, and a place where homeowners were more likely to hang a welcome sign than a political poster.

“It was so obviously fake,” he said of the flier. “But when you know your history, it’s a big deal to be encouraging neighbors to turn in neighbors, or report neighbors, or watch neighbors.”

The posters, each labeled a “Sanctuary City Neighborhood Public Notice,” provided two different numbers for people to call with tips. One led to ICE, and the other to United States Customs and Border Protection. Mr. Byrne posted a photo of one of the fliers on Twitter, where it got the attention of Muriel E. Bowser, the city’s mayor. She reposted Mr. Byrne’s tweet, and added her own message.

“Tear it down!” the mayor wrote. “DC is a sanctuary city. Clearly the flyer is meant to scare and divide our residents. We won’t stand for it.”

Residents took heed. By the time Mr. Byrne returned home that afternoon, he said, his neighbors were working to remove the posters — a difficult task, given the strong glue used to affix some of them to streetlight poles. The city’s public works department was also deployed to help remove the posters, reported DCist, a blog operated by the New York City-based media outlet Gothamist.

By Friday morning, Mr. Byrne said, all of the posters appeared to be gone.

Ms. Bowser has long affirmed Washington’s status as a “sanctuary city,” which means that local law enforcement officials there limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The city’s police department “has a longstanding policy that prohibits police officers from asking about citizenship or residency status to determine whether an individual is undocumented,” Officer Sean Hickman, a spokesman for the department, said in an email.

The status of undocumented people living in the United States has become a hot-button issue under President Trump, who has made tough statements on immigration, and issued an executive order in January that would essentially deny federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities.

A federal judge in California temporarily blocked that order in April. But across the United States, immigrants’ concerns over ICE raids and increased police scrutiny has, in some cases, led to panic.

In the context of “false reports of immigration checkpoints or random sweeps,” the fake ICE posters in Washington were “dangerous and irresponsible,” Jennifer Elzea, a deputy press secretary for ICE, said in an emailed statement. “Any person who actively incites panic or fear of law enforcement is doing a disservice to the community, endangering public safety and the very people they claim to support and represent.”

Read more: www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/us/fake-ice-posters-washington.html?_r=1

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