A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that there were 12 arrests on Saturday in the area, and four more on Sunday. Spokesman Bryan D. Cox said the “foreign nationals” were not legal residents of the U.S. and also faced criminal charges. From Cox:
ICE only conducts targeted arrests and focuses its limited resources first and foremost on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. Any suggestions as to ICE engaging in random or indiscriminate enforcement are categorically false. ICE only conducts targeted enforcement; ICE does not conduct checkpoints, raids or sweeps that target aliens indiscriminately.
The Asheville Police Department, in a statement, said it was aware of the enforcement action, adding that APD “has not participated in these operations in any manner.”
Hispanic community activists said federal agents “raided” communities in the Emma neighborhood, as well as in Hendersonville and Flat Rock in Henderson County.
“Members of our community were detained in their neighborhoods while running simple errands or on their way to work on a Saturday morning,” read the statement from CiMA (Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Acción), a group dedicated to social justice for immigrants.
“Neighborhoods throughout the Emma Elementary neighborhood, in Hendersonville, and in Flat Rock are reeling at the sudden loss of their loved ones. While local organizers are mobilizing support for these families, information about where they have been taken, the reasons for their detention, and the opportunity to bring in legal counsel are still unavailable.”
A rally on Saturday afternoon outside the Federal Building in downtown Asheville drew more than a hundred community members, as well as public officials including Asheville City Council members Vijay Kapoor, Sheneika Smith and Brian Haynes, and Buncombe County commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.
One woman tearfully described how her husband was arrested by agents. Other speakers pledged support for those detained. Another meeting attended by Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan was held at St. Eugene’s Church on Sunday.