Comments by Sanwar Ali:
In the current situation US immigration agents need to be sensitive in carrying out their duties, to avoid more demonstrations relating to racial bias in the system. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) also does not have a very good reputation. Many people probably hope that if Biden wins that race relations will improve. Trump has been a divisive figure.
Amid heightened racial tensions in the US, video has emerged of US immigration ICE agents stopping a black jogger in Boston, sparking a furious backlash from lawmakers. Bena Apreala was out jogging in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, when he was approached and stopped by ICE agents because he ‘fit the description of someone they were looking for.’
Lawmakers in Boston are now calling for an investigation into why Mr Apreala was stopped, with Boston Mayor, Marty Walsh, City Council Member, Matt O’Malley, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley all venting their anger at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for racially profiling a member of the general public.
Michelle Lynne, Mr Apreala’s partner, posted the video and said: “Basically, he was stopped because he was a black man running in a predominantly white neighborhood.”
Ms Lynne added: “This isn’t something you can ignore and say: ‘it doesn’t happen here’, it does.”
ICE agents failed to identify themselves
In an interview with NBC Boston, Mr Apreala said that he was approached by the agents who failed to identify themselves before proceeding to ask him to provide ID. One of the officers then asked Mr Apreala, a father and real estate agent in the area, ‘where he was from, who he was and why he was in this location.’
When questioning why he had been detained, the officers said that he ‘matched the description of someone they were investigating.’
Mr Apreala only became aware of who the agents were when he saw their ICE badges and began to record his experience on his smartphone.
While detained by the agents, once asked: “Do you have any tattoos on your left or right arm. If you can confirm, we’ll be out of here.”
Mr Apreala responded: “Am I free to go? Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything. Thank you. Have a great day, guys.”
No US immigration violation
Explaining events to NBC Boston, Mr Apreala said that at no point did the ICE agents identify themselves or suggest that he had been stopped on suspicion of US visa and immigration violations.
Patricia Apreala, Mr Apreala’s mother, said she was unsure whether he’d been arrested until she spoke with her son.
She said: “I have too many videos running in my head about young black males with law enforcement and it was not a pretty sight, I can tell you.”
Following a conversation with Mr Apreala, Boston’s Mayor Walsh took to Twitter to vent his fury at ICE, posting: “Let me be clear: racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified, and will not be tolerated.”
“For him and others who might have lived through an experience like this, I’m demanding that ICE stop this cruel practice of inciting fear in the lives of our residents, particularly our black and brown residents, and undocumented immigrants,” Mayor Walsh added.
Council member O’Mally, in whose district Mr Apreala was detained, also blasted ICE on Twitter, saying: “As someone who frequently jogs along the parkway, this hits particularly hard. This unlawful stop was outrageous & unacceptable. Racial profiling should not happen here or anywhere else.”
“I am working to follow up with the victim & will address this issue immediately with federal reps,” O’Mally added.
Meanwhile, Democratic representative Pressley demanded an investigation into why Mr Apreala was stopped. On Twitter, she posted: “For too long, ICE and Customs and Border Patrol have acted with impunity. We will not stand by while they harass and racially profile black and brown communities.”
Meanwhile, Enforcement and Removal Operations – a division of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement – confirmed that they had stopped a jogger in Boston.
A spokesperson for the division told NBC News: “ICE officers were conducting surveillance as part of a targeted enforcement action in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions and pending cocaine and fentanyl trafficking charges that may have been residing in the area.”
Heightened racial tensions
This latest ICE controversy comes amid heightened racial tensions in the US following the killing of George Floyd, an African-American, by a white police officer earlier this year. Mr Floyd’s death is one of a number of incidents involving the killing or injuring of a black individual by white federal agents in recent years and beyond.
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