Men recount witnessing ICE arrests last week on Richmond Highway

Rising Hope

Oscar Orlando Ramirez, Marvin Roach and Thermon Brewster speak to reporters Tuesday night at Rising Hope.

Three men say they witnessed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arresting multiple Latino men last week at a Richmond Highway shopping center.

Oscar Orlando Ramirez, Marvin Roach and Thermon Brewster said they were just starting their day Feb. 8 when they saw a group of men detained and then arrested by the ICE agents. The three men had exited the Rising Hope Mission Church’s hypothermia shelter around 6:45 a.m. when they saw agents from unmarked police cars pulled up to the Aldi shopping center at the corner of Route 1 and Russell Road.

Each man said the operation, in which approximately 6-7 men were put into large white vans that already contained other men, was like nothing they’d witnessed before.

I have lived in this county all my life, grew up [here] on Richmond Highway, and that is the very first time I seen something like that happen,” Roach said. 

Ramirez, an immigrant from El Salvador, had left Rising Hope before Brewster and Roach and was detained for a short time by the agents. He said the agents eventually allowed him to go free after verifying that he was in the country legally. Ramirez has lived in the U.S. since 1986.

Some of the men detained by ICE had also left the church shelter moments earlier, according to Ramirez. He knew some of the other men detained, and said he was confident that two were in the country legally but had “minor” criminal records. 

“I never seen that before,” Ramirez said. “It was unusual because I know that two guys that they took from here, were legal residents. [But] they had bad record.”

Ramirez and Brewster both said they saw between 10-12 officers on the scene, and as many as 10 unmarked cars. Noting that the Aldi and other stores in the shopping center were not yet open, Brewster and Roach said they felt the agents had been waiting for certain men to leave the shelter.

I think it was a surprise attack,” said Brewster. 

What the three men described to reporters on Tuesday night is in contrast to official statements from ICE about immigration enforcement sweeps in Northern Virginia. An ICE spokesman told Covering The Corridor on Monday that any actions in Fairfax County last week were routine enforcement, and not related to a series of arrests around the country that President Trump had touted on Twitter on Sunday and were confirmed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday. 

Asked about the Aldi arrests on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said that only two individuals were arrested near a church on Russell Road as part of routine enforcement operations.

“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy,” the spokeswoman said. “ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”

Ramirez, who’s lived in Northern Virginia since moving to the U.S. when he was 8 years old, said what he witnessed was anything but normal. 

I don’t know how ICE operates, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like that,” Ramirez said. “The first time in my life.”