Immigration Raid In Ellensburg

Few would expect an immigration raid to occur in central Washington State but that is exactly what occurred in the early morning hours of January 20, 2011. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations made an immigration raid in Ellensburg at three mobile home parks. According to the Ellensburg Daily Record, the agents along with police and Kittitas County sheriff's deputies using helicopters served 11 search warrants in making the raid. The raid took place after a year–and–half–long investigation involving the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit identifications and work documents.

Thirty adults in total were arrested in the Ellensburg raid, including a local pastor. In many cases, parents were separated from their children. 14 people, all Latino, were arrested for being involved in the creation and sale of fraudulent documents. 13 of the 14 were women. The pastor, whom had lead the congregation at the Iglesia Pentecostal Monte Sinai for more than ten years, was the lone male of the 14 charged. The raid occurred at about 6:00 a.m. and agents came in with guns drawn, shouting orders, and knocking down doors. The arrests occurred on criminal warrants following grand–jury indictments.

The legal proceedings for the 14 arrested will occur at the nearest federal court, which is in Yakima, 35 miles south of Ellensburg. The remaining 16 of the 30 were arrested on immigration–violation charges. 3 of the 16 were released on humanitarian grounds; the other 13 were transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, 125 miles to the west.

According to data from the 2000, U.S. Census 6.33% of Ellensburg's then population of 15,414 was Hispanic. Ellensburg has increased its population by about 2,000 over the past decade. The percentage of Hispanic population has risen over the past decade. According to Morgan Middle School in Ellensburg, about 13% of the school's 700 students are Hispanic.

The day after the raids, more than 200 people turned out for a public meeting to discuss them at the First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, including family members of those arrested and faculty and students from Central Washington University. The Kittitas County undersheriff also attended the meeting and said that there were currently no plans for additional immigration raids in Ellensburg.