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INS targeting immigrant rights groups, Minnesota Hispanic activists say


Hispanic community organizers in Minnesota claim the Bush administration used the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as an attack dog to eliminate activism among immigrants’ rights groups when INS agents arrested Milagros Jimenez on March 19.

Jimenez was a leader of Isaiah, a faith-based Minneapolis coalition that works for immigrants’ rights. She had crusaded to help undocumented immigrants obtain state IDs and driver’s licenses in Minnesota. She organized a March 23 event where Mexican citizens could obtain a Mexican identification card from the consul general. The U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo recognize this card. Isaiah member Jim Kielkopf said despite the arrest the event was a success with about 700 ID documents distributed.

Plainclothes INS agents intercepted Jimenez at the Isaiah office. There was confusion about the identities of the agents, and Isaiah members filed a kidnapping report with the Minneapolis police. Kielkopf said, “The police were very helpful in tracking what happened to her, and were fairly disgusted with the INS.”

Curtis Aljets, INS district director, told NCR the officials carried clearly labeled badges and identification. Jimenez is being held at the Sherburne County Jail near Elk River, Minn.

Jimenez is a single-mother, with a 14-year-old son. According to Isaiah, she is a Peruvian who entered the United States legally in 1997. Kielkopf said that Jimenez’ immigration documents fully complied with the law when Isaiah hired her two years ago. Aljets said he had not seen the legal documents submitted by Jimenez, but said there are many ways to obtain such documents.

Aljets said Jimenez entered the United States “without inspection” in 1995 and later filed for a benefit to stay. This was denied. A hearing regarding this case was scheduled in 1997, but Jimenez failed to appear, and an order to deport her was issued. When asked how he became aware of Jimenez, Aljets said he could not discuss investigative techniques.

Although Kielkopf said he could not speculate about whether Jimenez’s immigration record was spotless, “We think she was targeted for her political activism, especially because she is dealing with gaining rights for undocumented workers.”

Aljets said he had met with Jimenez several times in the past regarding immigration issues but did not question her legality. “I don’t screen documents when I’m meeting with people and doing community outreach programs,” he said.

Melissa Jones is a freelance writer living in California.

National Catholic Reporter, April 5, 2002