CORSICANA — Mexican immigrants, their U.S. citizen children and spouses, and other supporters filled City Hall in a rare protest Monday night over the deportation arrests of people who federal immigration officials say have criminal records.

CORSICANA — Mexican immigrants, their U.S. citizen children and spouses, and other supporters filled City Hall in a rare protest Monday night over the deportation arrests of people who federal immigration officials say have criminal records.

Federal officials said that 27 Mexican immigrants were arrested during a four-day initiative that ended Sunday and that two of them fell into the Homeland Security Department’s top removal priority. One person had two felony convictions for driving while intoxicated and another had a felony identification fraud, a federal spokesman said.

But residents in this town of about 24,000 said many other people were initially questioned and even more were frightened by the potential loss of their family members.

"Why do you treat Mexicans as less?" said a shaken 15-year-old Rubí Ibarra, a U.S. citizen whose father and uncle were taken away.

"We are not bad people," she said in the City Council chamber, which was packed with about 150 people. Outside in the lobby, about a hundred more stood listening as they watched the proceedings through large windows.

Ivette Swanson took the microphone, with her 6- and 4-year-old daughters beside her. The U.S. citizen said her 28-year-old husband, a Mexican who is in the U.S. illegally, was taken away Thursday morning.

She said she was trying to teach her children to trust the police. "But it is very hard when you do something like this," she said.

Swanson’s husband, Gustavo Garcia, has been in the U.S. since he was a child.

He has two felony convictions for driving while intoxicated, but she said such indiscretions are common for "young, wild American boys." Mexican immigrants shouldn’t face the harsh consequences of being deported to a country they no longer know, she said.

The uproar in Corsicana comes as immigrants and their supporters argue that cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration officers has sown distrust.

As the presidential election nears, others such as Republican candidate Donald Trump have hammered immigrants, particularly Mexicans, accusing them of crimes.

Although nearly a third of the population of rural, working-class Corsicana is of Latino ancestry, its City Council includes no Hispanics.

Mayor Chuck McClanahan said he couldn’t respond to the residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the council’s session Monday night because the issue of the deportation arrests hadn’t been placed on the agenda, as required by Texas law.

The city attorney, Kerri Anderson Donica, said the city did not ask for the immigration operation.

Anger largely centered on Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner, whose deputies cooperated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

But on the Navarro County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page, Tanner tried to distance himself from the chaotic arrests: "I did not contact ICE to request this operation and this operation was not due to the recent cock fight arrests in Navarro County."

"I do not take the position or the trust of our citizens lightly and I never will," he added. "Upon request, we will assist any law enforcement agency that is in our county to legally enforce the law."

In a brief interview, Tanner confirmed he had posted on Twitter: "I can confirm that ICE has left #Navarro County #ICEoutofCorsicana."

Some immigrants concluded the sheriff had taken their side by using "#ICEoutofCorsicana."

Among those affected was Hernan Martinez, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen whose father was arrested as he was leaving for work.

"All I want are rights for all people," Martinez said. "Nobody should be separated from their family."

In the lobby, 38-year Martina Pozos looked glum as she faced a future without her husband.

He was taken after agents began knocking on their door about 6 a.m. Thursday.

"They said they were looking for a fugitive," she said. "We said, ‘There’s no fugitive here.’ We were surprised. They said, ‘Can we enter?’"

The couple allowed officers into their home because "we had no fight with them," Pozos said.

Pozos said the officers wanted to arrest her, though she insisted she’d done nothing wrong. When agents asked her whether she was in the U.S. illegally, she admitted she was.

But her husband was taken away instead. Pozos said she believes she was spared because she’s the mother of five children. She said she has contacted an attorney who told her fighting the case would cost $5,000 to $8,000.

Isidro Guido said his 27-year-old sister was also taken, leaving him to care for her 5-year-old daughter, who is a U.S. citizen.

On Sunday, the video of the crying girl was posted on the Facebook page of Jose Manuel Santoyo, a Southern Methodist University student and former Corsicana resident. By Monday night, the video had been viewed more than 22,000 times.

Follow Dianne Solís on Twitter at @disolis.


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