A UCSB undergraduate student was arrested last week following a pre-dawn Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at a Santa Ynez apartment.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, authorities from the largest branch in the Dept. of Homeland Security, were deployed to the Santa Ynez apartment complex on El Colegio Road to investigate irregularities in the paperwork of an Iranian graduate student at 5 a.m. last Wednesday. After she produced her documentation, immigration officials also interrogated the graduate student’s roommate, an undergraduate of Korean heritage, who was allegedly unable to present the same material. The agents then arrested the third-year sociology and philosophy major and took her to a detention facility in Ventura County.
UCSB Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said administrators are currently working to secure the student’s release and Chancellor Henry T. Yang has contacted Congresswoman Lois Capps for help.
Santa Ynez residents said they were generally unaware of the raid. Education Abroad Program student Heidi Yoon, an English major from Korea and friend of the apprehended undergraduate, said she initially did not know what had happened, but suspected something was amiss.
“Three days ago, a friend called her to see if she wanted to have lunch,” Yoon said. “He said she was crying and she said she couldn’t tell him where she was. After that, we called again and the phone was cut off. I didn’t know she was arrested, I though she went to L.A.”
Religious studies professor Rudy Busto said the Iranian student who was the original target of the arrest taught an informal Farsi language class in his department.
Busto said he sent a Facebook message notifying students of the arrest. In addition, other campus officials have advocated for the undergraduate’s release. According Desruisseaux, in addition to contacting Capps, Chancellor Yang visited the Iranian student following the raid and instructed campus attorney David Birnbaum to assist Leon Hazany, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who was retained by the family of the arrested student.
“When the chancellor heard about this, he met with her and tried to comfort her,” Desruisseaux said. “We, as a campus, are providing whatever support we can.”
He also said although agents may possibly transfer the student to another detention facility in San Pedro, Calif., he hopes officials can resolve the matter quickly.
“We as a campus are cooperating with her attorney and trying to provide as much support and assistance as we can in the hope that the student will be released from custody and allowed to return to her studies as soon as possible,” Desruisseaux said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a division of the United States Dept. of Homeland Security charged with securing national borders. It was formed as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which was enacted in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2006, the division deported nearly 195,000 illegal immigrants from the U.S, according to the ICE website.
Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states: “Every alien, 18 years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him. … Any alien who fails to comply with [these] provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Possible punishments for violation of this section include fines and imprisonment.