SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents acted outside their stated mission by using racial profiling to meet a quota, according to Maryland's largest advocacy group for immigrants.
ICE arrested 24 Hispanic men at a Baltimore 7-Eleven in order to pad its numbers, according to CASA de Maryland. An internal investigation contradicts sworn declarations by agents involved in the January 2007 raid in Fells Point.
The agents' supervisor ordered them to boost their numbers because they were short of the annual quota of 1,000 arrests per team, the Washington Post reported, so the agents went to the 7-Eleven to target day laborers. Advocates contend that ICE officers, without reasonable cause, arrested only Hispanics and ignored other customers at the convenience store.
"This is the federal government, and these are agents who took an oath to uphold the Constitution," said CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres. "Is this the America contemplated by our founders?"
Surveillance video showed agents gathering Hispanic shoppers, day laborers and pedestrians while whites and blacks were ignored.
ICE representatives denied any wrongdoing.
"ICE takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, especially allegations including racial profiling," a spokesman said. "These allegations were thoroughly investigated and were deemed to be unsubstantiated."
Sen. Barbara Mikulski requested the investigation immediately after the raid.
The report also showed that information ICE offered to Sen. Ben Cardin's office was false, according to CASA.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
A modified quota took effect on Feb. 4. Each team now is expected to identify and target 50 fugitives per month and another 500 per year through operations with other teams.
CASA officials are requesting a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to discuss ICE enforcement policies, the Associated Press reported.