Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, tried Monday to clear up some of the confusion that arose after immigration agents made a number of arrests in south Minneapolis over the weekend.
“This absolutely was not an immigration raid,” she said at a news conference.
Sunday, the day after the raid, a group of immigration-rights activists held a protest at the intersection of Lake St. and Bloomington Ave. South, where a number of Latinos had been arrested.
The protesters said they were upset that Minneapolis police appeared to be violating police department policy by assisting immigration agents with the arrests.
“We were not targeting illegal aliens,” Paulose said, when asked about the purpose of Saturday's operation. “This was the execution of a federal search warrant, in connection with a federal indictment on prostitution.”
Minneapolis police have since said they were on the scene simply to help with crowd control.
Paulose announced 25 people had been arrested over the weekend and charged with conspiracy, transporting a person to engage in prostitution, and coercion.
She and other officials said immigration agents were involved because the suspects allegedly were running a prostitution ring and brought women to the Twin Cities from out of the country to perform sex acts.
“The females, in this case, happen to be from foreign countries,” said Mary Hernandez, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that oversees U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
“We are the lead for human trafficking,” Hernandez said.
As the news conference was happening Monday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Police Chief Tim Dolan were e-mailing the media to say, as they’ve said before, that Minneapolis police officers “will not enforce immigration policy.”
The mayor and chief said immigrants need to be able to trust officers who patrol the neighborhoods.
Rybak and Dolan renewed their concerns about ICE agents wearing shirts that say "Police," because that word can be confusing and “damage our ability to protect and serve our citizens,” they said.
Another source of confusion Monday was a press release put out by Rachel Paulose's office.
The official news release listed the immigration status of the 25 people indicted in connection with the prostitution ring. That caught the attention of reporters, who noted it is not common practice to reveal the immigration status of someone charged with a crime like prostitution, something that is not legal, regardless of whether the person charged is a U.S. citizen.
Paulose seemed surprised by reporters’ questions.
“It's not listed in the press release,” she said. When reporters pointed out the information was indeed listed, she paused and then repeated, “This was not an immigration raid.”
And yet, as officials were insisting the weekend's operation was not an immigration raid, an ICE spokesman confirmed that five other people were arrested Saturday, in addition to those charged in connection with the prostitution ring.
ICE spokesman Tim Counts said the five people were arrested for immigration violations after they had been “encountered along the way” by immigration agents, who were looking for people connected to the prostitution ring.
Meanwhile, as Paulose attempted to sort through the confusing nature of the weekend’s events, reporters were anxious to ask her about the ongoing investigation into the hiring and firing practices of her boss, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Paulose’s name is expected to come up Wednesday, when former Gonzales aide Monica Goodling testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.
At the beginning of the news conference Monday, an aide to Paulose announced the U.S. attorney would not be answering questions about any topic other than the prostitution arrests.
Paulose held firm when reporters pressed her.
“I think we stated, at the beginning of this press conference, that we wanted to focus on this indictment,” she said. “And that's what I'm going to do.”
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)