Park City Hispanic community on edge after ICE arrests

SUMMIT COUNTY – With the arrests of four people in Park City by ICE agents Friday, it has caused some fear and confusion among the Hispanic community.

“It's kind of traumatizing,” said Rebeca Gonzalez, program director for Bright Futures at Park City High School.

Gonzalez says students were scared their parents would be picked up by ICE agents and deported.

“The student was almost in tears saying 'my mom is afraid to go home.' There's a police officer on the corner of Maverik in town. People are afraid of even driving by there,” said Gonzalez.

Two family friends were stopped and questioned by agents and others said agents had entered people’s homes.

“What I was hearing from the community was firsthand experiences that agents came to the house without even a house warrant and that little children were witnessing their parents being questioned,” said Gonzalez.

Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter released a statement:

“Yesterday at 5:00AM, the Park City Police Department was informed by Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that targeted enforcement operations were being conducted within Park City. The operations resulted in the apprehension of four (4) individuals wanted on felony counts or unspecified other offenses. The ERO has assured me that these types of activities are not uncommon and are part of their normal enforcement operations. There are no other confirmed reports of targeted enforcement operations in Park City.

Given the timing and heightened anxiety regarding Federal immigration policy, it is both understandable and unfortunate that a considerable amount of community fear and confusion was created. In Park City, the role of local law enforcement is to enforce the rule of law and ensure that the civil rights and health, safety and welfare of all individuals are protected. Our enforcement priorities are set locally by our Mayor and City Council, and are defined by the compassionate principles of our community – community policing; to prevent and apprehend criminal violent and domestic offenders; drug and human traffickers; and those with prior felony convictions or who directly threaten the safety of others.

I have confirmed with our Mayor, City Council, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, and Federal law enforcement that these principles have not changed. Further, we must remember that individuals in the United States and Park City, regardless of immigration status, have rights under the U.S. Constitution and other laws that we respect and uphold.

If anyone in the greater Park City community has lingering questions regarding yesterday’s targeted actions by the ERO, please encourage them to contact the ERO Salt Lake City Field Office at 801-886-7400 or SaltLakeCity.Outreach@ice.dhs.gov. In addition, I can also be reached at the Park City Police Department by calling 435-615-5500.”

Gonzalez sent an email to city leaders and other community advocates expressing her fear that families will be torn apart.

“We are in the kitchen. We are working in hospitality, we are working in the service industry all around. It would affect every business in Park City,” Gonzalez said.

In response to the arrests, Gonzalez has helped organize a community meeting to help answer questions of concerned citizens about their rights. The meeting is on Thursday, February 23rd at 6 pm at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Park City.