Thursday, November 29, 2012

Immigration officers stopping nannies in neighborhood parks?

This is odd. Over on the Columbia Heights listserve, some folks are reporting that Hispanic nannies are being stopped by apparent immigration officers as they take kids to local parks, like the Girard Street Park and 11th and Monroe Trolley Park. One nanny was arrested, and another nanny (and the kids she was nannying) was followed a few blocks by an SUV, then questioned. 

MPD and Jim Graham were contacted and neither are aware of these activities, and are both looking to get to the bottom of it. MPD officers said they do not deploy or assist with this kind of effort.
Over the last ~2 mos Homeland Security/ICE have been questioning nannies AT playgrounds in Columbia Heights (Girard St Park 14th / Monroe 11st Park -- "Trolley Park"). There are 2 SUVs that sit near the parks, black Escalade /black Suburban (w/4 African American women seated in the SUVs). In some cases the women in the SUVs get out and question the nannies at the park (IN FRONT of children) -- and in other cases they FOLLOW the nannies home from the park and question them on the street (also in front of children). They question only the minority nannies -- and seem to approach them randomly. 
In one case, a woman began questioning a nanny AT the park on Girard St -- pretending she was interested in securing nanny employment, asking how this nanny secured her job. The nanny explained to her that she got her job via an agency and earnestly offered to help the woman and provide the agency phone number. Later, as the nanny was leaving the park with the two children she was caring for, the same woman, approached the same nanny and showed her badge indicating she was with Homeland Security and demanded her name, address, and other information.
In another example, a nanny left Trolley Park, an SUV followed her for a few blocks. Then pulled in front of her as she was walking down the street with the stroller-- then a woman got out, began calling her ma'am repeatedly trying to get her attention -- then asked her how she got her job. 
In one case, after questioning a nanny, the nanny was arrested (14th and Girard).
Other readers expressed concern, especially since they aren't sure what their rights are. It's a troublesome issue: of course there are immigration laws on the books, but randomly asking nannies in front of the kids, and following them around, seems like a strange way to enforce them to say the least. It's borderline harassment and I'm sure if that was my nanny and my kids, I would not be happy.
Thanks MPD for looking into this. As a mom, a Latina and user of the parks I feel outraged about this harassment. Several of my nanny friends are worried and have asked me about the best way to act if approached. What rights do they have to give or withhold information? Do they HAVE to talk to them? None of them want to get in trouble but some do not speak English and all feel very intimidated. Any help and advice would be appreciated. I think I speak on behalf of the community parents that Columbia Heights celebrates diversity and want to make sure all residents, visitors and our loving caregivers are well protected and respected. 
Pretty weird. What do you think?  

1 comment:

B.P. said...

It's important to know your rights when stopped by police. If stopped, you can always ask, "Am I free to go or am I being detained?" If they're detaining you they have to have real cause, not just "because you look foreign."

Good sources:
ACLU website:
http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you

Flex your rights: http://www.flexyourrights.org/faqs/when-can-police-ask-for-id/