A Basin City woman claims U.S. immigration officers detained her Wednesday to use her as a bargaining chip to get her son to surrender himself.
Mirna Gomez, 49, was going out to find work in the cherry orchards at 4 a.m. Wednesday when she saw police lights behind her.
Mirna Gomez's daughter, Beatriz Gomez, told the Herald that Mirna quietly pulled to the side of Sage Hill Road in Franklin County.
As she sat there, Beatriz Gomez, 20, said her mother began seeing police surround her car.
That's when Mirna Gomez realized they were Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, she said.
"Her vehicle was left right where she was pulled over," Beatriz Gomez said. "To make things worse, she was being detained as 'bait,' or in our lawyer's own words, a hostage."
The person ICE wanted was her brother, Leo Gomez, who was convicted of DUI in 2011.
Beatriz Gomez said her brother and mom have been in the United States since 1991. Leo Gomez was about age 1 when an uncle brought him into the U.S.; his mother followed a month later.
While ICE officials wouldn't release any information about how many arrests took place Wednesday in Basin City, they did address specific arrests.
"On Wednesday, as part of a targeted immigration enforcement action, ICE arrested Leodegario Gomez-Duran, a Mexican national illegally present in the U.S. on immigration violations," said Carissa Cutrell, with ICE Public Affairs. "He has a previous criminal conviction for driving under the influence."
"That same day, ICE also arrested Maria Gomez-Duran, a Mexican national illegally present in the U.S., on immigration violations, after she departed the home of Leodegario Gomez-Duran. ICE released her on an order of recognizance, pending immigration proceedings," Cutrell said.
The story is more complicated than that, said Beatriz Gomez.
She said she and her brother didn't find out Mirna Gomez was in custody until ICE officers called him using his mother's phone.
Officers gave her brother until 3 p.m. to turn himself in — or his mother would be sent over to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
That tactic wasn't necessary, said Leo Gomez's attorney, David Jakeman.
After Leo Gomez's conviction in 2011, an immigration judge closed his immigration case deciding not to pursue deportation, Jakeman said.
All the government had to do was file a motion to place the case back in front of a judge, Jakeman said.
He added that in his 10 years of immigration law, he has not seen such a tactic used to arrest someone.
When the Gomez family arrived in Yakima on Wednesday, they said their goodbyes and traded Leo for his mother, Beatriz Gomez said.
Leo Gomez will be sent to the Tacoma detention center, where he will have have an immigration hearing.
"My mother was with people who had been working their (butts) off in the fields out under the burning sun since yesterday (Tuesday) morning, with no sleep and no food to eat," Beatriz wrote on Facebook. "She was detained with friends of her own and with parents of those peers I went to school with. ... No family deserves this."
Several people on Facebook claimed the Franklin County Sheriff's Office was involved in the roundup, leading to calls for Sheriff Jim Raymond to stop collaborating with immigration officials.
While the sheriff's office was notified that ICE was conducting an operation in the county, Franklin County Undersheriff Dan McCary said deputies did not participate.
"We had no involvement. They made traffic stops. They knocked on doors. We had nothing to do with it," he said. "We were not asked to help at all."
Immigration officers contacted the sheriff's office because the sheriff asks other agencies to tell him if they are operating in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Cutrell confirmed that, saying ICE officers can conduct immigration enforcement with or without local law enforcement cooperation.
"However, ICE maintains that cooperation by local law enforcement is an indispensable component of promoting public safety," she said.