In the past few days, local social media feeds were filled with posts about alleged ICE activity at Seattle area light rail stations. People who did not even witness the activity first-hand claimed that immigration enforcement agents were asking people to show proof of citizenship.
These are unconfirmed rumors. Actually, we at the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs have become accustomed to receiving almost monthly phone calls and alerts from people who think they have spotted ICE agents at various light rail stations around Seattle.
But you should know that the Department of Homeland Security agency called the Transportation Security Administration Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team (TSA VIPR) routinely patrols light rail stations, ferries/ferry terminals, and other modes of transportation in cities across the country, including Seattle.
Here’s a TSA blog post explaining what they do: https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2016/11/28/tsa-job-vipr-team.
As you can see from the images from the above blog post, they patrol armed and wear Department of Homeland Security-branded gear. And it is in their job description to be “visible,” so you can see how this can be alarming to many Seattle residents unaccustomed to seeing armed federal agents in their communities. While the TSA VIPR teams are within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is significant to know that this is a separate agency within DHS.
The WA Immigrant Solidarity Network -Red de Solidaridad de Inmigrantes en WA (WAISN) warns residents to BE CAUTIOUS, BUT PLEASE DON’T GET ALARMED. They also ask that you please report any suspected ICE activity at: 844-724-3737 (844-RAID-REP).
We understand you might think you are helping when you post or repost unsubstantiated rumors about ICE sightings in your community. However, many law enforcement agencies may resemble ICE agents. So posting what are likely false ICE sightings on social media unnecessarily perpetuates a climate of fear in immigrant communities. Also, you should know that lately many ICE agents have been detaining immigrants in plain clothes in what they are calling, “targeted apprehensions.”
If you see something that you suspect is ICE activity in your community, instead of posting immediately to social media, please report it to the WAISN hotline 844-724-3737 or 844-RAID-REP. ***THIS IS NOT A SERVICE OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE.***
WAISN has this message for allies:
If you are an ally and feel safe in verifying the activity…
- After calling the hotline to report that you’re about to verify the activity, start video documenting. (They DO NOT recommend live-streaming).
- Express your right to record and inform them that they are being recorded.
- Ask what agency the agents are from.
- Ask whom are they looking for.
- Ask for their name and badges. If you can, document this information.
- Ask if they have a warrant. If you can, document the warrant by taking a picture of it.
- If they DO NOT have a judicial warrant (signed by a judge) or they just have an administrative warrant (signed by an ICE staffer), you can ask them to leave your community. Of course, they are not obligated to leave.
Reminder: If you do take pictures of any of the above pieces of information or record any activity email it to WAISN at firstname.lastname@example.org with a location, date, and time.