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In Aftermath of ICE Operation, Wyoming Woman Burns Herself and Her Daughter to Death

Friends say that after the ICE agents came, Delgado was terrified she would be separated from her daughter, and equally frightened she might be found by her abuser.

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The three would otherwise not meet the enforcement priorities stated by ICE. A March 2, 2011 ICE memo issued by Morton (echoing a 2010 memo with similar content) outlines ICE’s highest priorities in immigration enforcement, the first and most important of which is detaining “Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety.” This includes aggravated felonies (itself a broad and expanding category of crimes).

So though the three detainees are not ICE’s number-one priority, they have been criminalized by ICE, and turned into a priority in the eyes of the federal government.

Moreover, the ICE enforcement in Cheyenne will serve to deter other undocumented people in Wyoming from attempting to secure jobs. The catch-22 is that having a SSN number is required in order to obtain a job—and pay state and federal taxes—but an undocumented migrant in possession of a falsified number is subject to immediate deportation, regardless of criminal history and family life.

In prosecuting these individuals, ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne reveal their disposition against ICE’s own stated priorities—their prosecutorial discretion has been thrown to the wind as they invest time and energy pursuing non-violent migrants who have been in the U.S. for years. This is unsurprising, given the total lack of enforcement, review capacity, and implementation ability ICE has over its own stated priorities, but it still smacks of foul intention.

Stories from the Cheyenne ICE Enforcement

The panic Delgado felt during the January operation also plagued the other undocumented men and women who encountered ICE agents.

Ten agents divided into two teams, and, accompanied by three deputies from the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department, approached the homes of 11 people on the list. Eyewitnesses report that the agents were intimidating and abusive, pounding on the windows and doors of their homes, yelling at the men and women. They conducted the door-to-door investigation with quite a bit of force.

According to accounts, one ICE interaction involved an 8-year-old boy, alone in his house, who opened the door to the agents. They stormed in, looking through the house for his mother. She had left for work, and he was waiting for a family friend to take him to school.

Eyewitnesses describe similar patterns in the three arrests.

After detaining one woman, ICE agents reportedly tried to make her husband sign a paper authorizing their entrance and search of the premises. “Pero si ya están adentro” ["but you’re already inside"], he pointed out to them. The agents left, taking the unsigned papers and his wife.

After arresting her husband at their home, agents reportedly told the wife of the detained man she had three weeks to get out of Cheyenne. According to his lawyer, the wife has since moved to Texas.

In another instance, the agents did not allow a woman to shut the door in order to change. Reports indicate that the agents turned their backs while she dressed, and then arrested her.

The Sheriff’s Office denies the forceful conduct depicted in eyewitness accounts. The sheriff is quoted as saying “The ICE agents went out of their way to ensure that they developed a positive rapport with the children in each of the homes visited. Our deputies would not have engaged in any of the tactics mentioned.”

Searching for Accountability

The ICE action in Cheyenne has received a pass in area media. The official ICE statement about Erica Delgado says that agents “contacted” Delgado on January 24 as a part of “an ongoing investigation into counterfeit identity documents in the Cheyenne, Wyo., area.”

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