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On the dance floor that night, ICE officials shouted orders in Spanish for everyone to separate: people with papers on one side of the room, people without them on the other.
One by one, ICE escorted each person to a van parked outside to be fingerprinted, says immigration attorney Angela Ferguson, whose clients include people who were at the club that night. After pressing their fingers into the fingerprint reader, one of two lights illuminated. A red light indicated that the person had a criminal record, prior deportations or warrants, or that they had missed an immigration-court hearing. ICE apprehended those people on the spot, taking away 20 Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants, ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro tells The Pitch. They all face deportation.
A green light meant no rap sheet. Those people — ICE won't say how many; Ferguson estimates about 200 — were given appointment notices to report to ICE.
The notices were voluntary invitations to turn themselves in to immigration, Ferguson says. But only those with lawyers would know that they had a choice to report. About 60 showed, she says. According to Montenegro, whoever appeared also now faces deportation.
After the raid, questions arose about whether it was designed to undermine Kansas City Police Chief Jim Corwin, who has always maintained that immigration enforcement has no place in local police work.
In the past, "KCPD used the excuse that these people are undocumented and should be deported and ... the whole community suffered," Corwin once wrote in The Police Chief magazine. Documented or undocumented, he wrote, anyone who obeyed the law was part of the community.
Such a severe break with Corwin's philosophy would seem to warrant the chief's OK, especially given that it involved such a polarizing issue. But Corwin didn't know about the raid. He wasn't even in town that night. He was in Florida for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, where he was being honored for his community policing on the West Side. Villalobos and Tomasic were there with him.
Maj. Wayne Stewart, the commander of Central Patrol Division, denies that the raid was timed to coincide with Corwin's absence. The bust had been in the works for more than a year, he says, and he enlisted the help of Maj. Jan Zimmerman, commander of the Narcotics and Vice Division. Zimmerman works with a local gang task force, and that task force happens to include ICE agents.
"Oasis is really no different than all types of other big operations that we plan all the time," she says. "And when someone volunteers manpower, I don't turn it down."
Zimmerman planned the raid and sent Stewart an e-mail, telling his officers when to show up. She claims that she didn't know the club would be filled with undocumented immigrants — it was hardly a secret, though, and ICE's desire to tag along should have tipped her off. She also denies that she brought along ICE for that reason.
"You could write the same story: 'Golly, why would you take the gun people to a club that's primarily African-American? What's the message there?'" she asks. "There's no message."
The message seems obvious, actually: A club full of illegal immigrants was causing problems, so they decided to take down the club and take the undocumented immigrants with it. Still, she and Stewart seem to harbor second thoughts about how the raid unfolded.
"Our missions were not in-sync that night," Stewart says. "ICE didn't do anything wrong. They did what ICE does, and we did what we do. But they are not compatible in that environment."