U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has recently ramped up its presence in Madison, and local officials are not having it.
Since rumors started circulating last week that ICE was in the Madison area, at least 11 people have been detained by the agency. The number by itself is enough to cause alarm, but the report that ICE is operating in the shadows is even more concerning.
Typically, ICE will notify local police departments about their activities in any given area. But for whatever reason, no advanced notice was given about ICE’s presence in Madison. According to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, this is not a good look for the increasingly controversial agency.
“It’s not policy and it’s not mandated even by federal law,” Mahoney told NBC15, “but it’s good practice to not have your local law enforcement officers responding to 911 calls because there are armed individuals in the community and it turns out to be federal law enforcement agencies.”
“We’re very disappointed in how ICE and the federal government are conducting themselves, and we are making our best effort to work with community leaders and to make sure the rights of those individuals in ICE’s custody are fully protected,” Soglin said. He added: “It’s disappointing that they did it at all.”
While ICE has maintained that these are targeted arrests and not larger scale raids, their presence has nonetheless put the local Hispanic community on edge.
José, a 22-year-old from Madison who requested anonymity, tells me: “The fear is real. We don’t want to be separated. I have two little brothers who do not understand why we stay home all weekend and don’t open the door to anyone. All they know is that if they open the door to the wrong person, we might be separated.”
And ICE’s presence is rippling beyond that, as well. Popular downtown restaurant Tipsy Cow went as far as to temporarily close its doors instead of putting their employees at risk.
However, there seems to be little anyone can do except vocalize their concerns. ICE is not currently offering any information on the people they’ve detained. Even U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan says ICE is… well, icing him.
“The fact that we can’t get information as your federal representatives is frustrating,” says Pocan. In July, he introduced a House bill that would abolish what he calls “an increasingly rogue agency that is significantly off its mission.”