Santa Cruz police say they were misled by the Department of Homeland Security into helping make immigration arrests during a raid on suspected gang members.

Police Chief Kevin Vogel and Assistant Chief Dan Flippo said at a news conference on Thursday that federal officials lied when they assured them a Feb. 13 joint operation would not include immigration-related arrests during a raid on the El Salvador-based gang known by the names MS-13 and Mara Salvatrucha.

Flippo said he didn’t learn of the immigration arrests until the next night, when dozens of protesters disrupted a City Council meeting to voice their displeasure.

Vogel said the department no longer trusts the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and will no longer work with the agency.

“I want to underscore that we would never have participated or cooperated in this operation if we had known that it included immigration enforcement,” Vogel said. “As a result of this betrayal of trust, we will be taking a long and hard look about whether we will cooperate with this federal agency in the future.

“We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust.”

Agents arrested 10 people allegedly associated with the gang, some of whom have been connected to four Santa Cruz homicides, the chief said.

Flippo said the gang-related arrests at about a dozen residences were the culmination of a five-year investigation launched when a Santa Cruz resident called police to complain about gang members extorting local businesses.

He said his department enlisted the help of DHS because of the gang’s notoriety and global reach, and that the raids were made because it appeared gang members were planning another killing.

But Flippo also said 10 or more additional people who agents encountered at the residences were detained solely on immigration charges.

Federal immigration officials pushed back hard against the assertion that they duped Santa Cruz police.

They also denied that the aggressive immigration approach of President Donald Trump’s administration had anything to do with their plans or actions.

“We worked closely with the Santa Cruz Police Department over the last five years on this case,” ICE spokesman James Schwab said. “Allegations that the agency secretly planned an immigration enforcement action in hopes there would be new political leadership that would allow for an alleged ‘secret’ operation to take place are completely false, reckless and disturbing.”

Schwab acknowledged that 11 people were detained on immigration charges, but said police had agreed before the raid that some foreign nationals might be briefly held until their identities and case histories could be determined.

Schwab said that’s exactly what happened, and 10 of the 11 immigrants were released. One of them remains in custody because of his criminal history and possible ties to the gang investigation.

“The chief acknowledged this possibility and it was agreed that no foreign nationals would enter the Santa Cruz Police Department’s facility or their police vehicles,” Schwab said.

Here is ICE’s full statement on the operation:

On Feb. 13, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led a multi-agency operation involving the execution of federal search and arrest warrants at 11 locations as part of an ongoing criminal investigation targeting alleged criminal activity by suspected members of a notorious transnational gang. The operation was the culmination of a 5-year investigation which resulted in the arrest of 10 criminal organization members on federal criminal charges in Santa Cruz, Daly City, and Watsonville. Additionally, during the enforcement action, authorities encountered 11 illegal aliens at the operational locations who were detained initially on administrative immigration violations due to their association with suspected members of a transnational street gang. Ultimately, 10 of those individuals were released. One remains in agency custody at this time due to his criminal history and possible ties to the ongoing investigation. At no time during the operation were minors were left unattended at any of the enforcement locations.

Several days prior to the operation, our Special Agent-in-Charge office notified the Santa Cruz Chief of Police that any non-targeted foreign nationals encountered during the enforcement actions at the search and arrest locations would be held briefly until determinations could be made about their identities and case histories. The Chief acknowledged this possibility and it was agreed that no foreign nationals would enter the Santa Cruz Police Department’s facility or their police vehicles.

We worked closely with the Santa Cruz Police Department over the last five years on this case. Allegations that the agency secretly planned an immigration enforcement action in hopes there would be new political leadership that would allow for an alleged “secret” operation to take place are completely false, reckless, and disturbing.

Ryan L. Spradlin, the Special Agent-in-Charge in San Francisco, has stated that “it’s unfortunate when politics get intertwined with a well planned and executed public safety operation. When politics undermine law and order, the only winners are the criminals.” Spradlin publicly reiterated that he understands the concerns of community members and the sensitive nature of the operation, but that it’s a sad day for the law enforcement community when some continue to make statements because they are worried about their jobs, while our special agents remain focused on doing theirs. “I told the Deputy Chief that rather than disparaging this operation, the community of Santa Cruz should understand that they are safer because of it,” said Spradlin.

Law enforcement operations are fluid, and unforeseen circumstances often arise that must be assessed and addressed on site. The goal of this operation was to arrest known members of a violent criminal organization and disrupt the dangerous activities of this organization. All of the arrests were conducted in accordance with agency policies and consistent with the special agents’ authorities under federal law.

Santa Cruz is a sanctuary city, which prohibits its police from cooperating with federal authorities investigating immigration violations.

The police chief and mayor each apologized to city residents for unwittingly violating the sanctuary policy of Santa Cruz.

“I’m deeply disturbed and upset,” Mayor Cynthia Chase said. “I’m outraged.”

This post includes reporting by Paul Elias of The Associated Press.

  • Curious

    Fire them all.

    • Nero Infan

      Obama will soon be arrested for treason and or banished from America after Trump is done dealing with Obama’s Kenyan arms deal on his way out of office. Hooking up his home country weapons while doing business with a company charging far more than other companies offered the contract for all because Obama wanted to give his friends 400+ billion in business at the expense of American tax payers. Barry Soetoro is a treasonous criminal. Worst president of all-time. Glad he can be forgotten and all of his changes are being reversed by Trump.

      • Boy, are you full of compost….you must read Breitbart.

        • Bonnie C

          I bet they have a tinfoil hat, too. Ridiculous!

      • Burke Edwards

        Man, you are twisted. When Obama comes back from his vacation, he’s going to be in NYC and Washington DC using his considerable powers as a Constitutional lawyer and his huge clout as the most popular POTUS since JFK

        to impeach, imprison and/or deport Trump, who already is a dead man stumbling.

      • Mimi

        You’re an idiot.

    • Nero Infan

      Fire them all? They’re in the process of hiring 10,000 more. Good luck.

      • Burke Edwards

        “ICE is the second-largest criminal investigative agency in the U.S. government after the FBI.” -Morton, John T. (22 August 2009). “Interview”. Business of Government Hour. IBM Center for the Business of Government.

      • Curious

        Fire local law enforcement that won’t enforce the law.

        • Lora Moore

          I agree

  • Hannah

    The Trump sweep and threats of lawbreaking on the part of DHS has caused fear and anxiety in communities and families who have anything to do with an undocumented person. Already a family has lost a parent due to her having used a false I.D. in order to work — she is not a ‘dangerous criminal’! What good does it do the U.S. to tear the mother of a family with two teenagers and a husband away from their wife and mother!?

    A DACA member has been detained for no reason. This slip-up of the guidelines Trump has promised has terrorized hundreds of thousands of DACA members who had thought they were safe enough to go on with their lives.

    Congratulations to Santa Cruz for being a sanctuary city and to the Chief and Mayor for speaking out about the slip-up on part of the DHS.

    • Skip Conrad

      She’s a ‘dangerous criminal’ if it was your ID she stole. ID theft virtually ruins the victim’s life.

      • Bonnie C

        Who said she is an identity thief?

        • Lora Moore

          And who said she was not?

    • Nero Infan

      If Obama had followed the law and constitution in the first place, this wouldn’t be happening. Non-citizens took in over 1billion of SSI use for health and other such things without paying anything into the pot. Only way they can is with a stolen SS# which is also illegal. And a lot of these people here illegally are driving. Which means they’re driving without a license and quite possibly no insurance. But you act like they’re all so innocent. Can’t wait for the wall. An illegal up in Connecticut just murdered his wife yesterday and kidnapped their 6 year old daughter. A criminal previously supposed to be deported hiding in sanctuary Connecticut. Neat, huh?

      • Mimi

        If you want to split hairs and try to lay this at Obama’s feet, we could go a little bit further and lay some of it at Reagan’s feet as well.

        “legalized illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously with the penalty of a fine, back taxes due, and admission of guilt; candidates were required to prove that they were not guilty of crimes, that they were in the country before January 1, 1982, and that they possessed minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language.

        At the time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that about four million illegal immigrants would apply for legal status through the act and that roughly half of them would be eligible.”


        “Until 2012, there was virtually no movement in Congress to deal with the problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to many of the 3.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United states.”


        There were several POTUS from 1986-2012:

        Reagan, Daddy Bush (4 years), Clinton (8 years), Baby Bush (8 years), then Obama (8 years).

        Obama started in January 2009 which means that during the entirety of the 26 years between the signing and Congress beginning to start doing something about it, only four of them were during Obama’s administration.

        Oh and also….Congress is the entity that was supposed to be doing something and which needs to research and formulate a plan of action that doesn’t manage to create national and international panic amongst the citizenry and government officials alike.

        Contrary to what Dear Leader thinks he knows, he does not have infinite power to just go around making a lot of (really bad, poorly thought out, poorly crafted, and horrendously enforced) decisions ordering the feds to do XYZ today because his Metamucil hasn’t kicked in yet.

        For as much as you want to blame the immigration “problem” on Obama, I direct you back to the 1800’s when people were complaining about all of the Chinese immigrants in California because it was a “problem,” or the Irish in Boston, or Haitians in Florida, or, or, or.

        No matter when (in time), or where, or who the immigrants (undocumented) are, or where they come from originally, people here in River City (i.e. the US) will be complaining about them.

        They have “weird” food, a “weird” religion, talk too much, stand too close, and most importantly “they TAKE ALL OF THE JOBS that we weren’t looking for anyway because we’d rather spend the day playing Xbox while we wait for our food stamps to get loaded on to our card[s]. But…illegals man. Amirite?”

    • FoolForTruth

      “According to The United States Department of Justice, harboring a fugitive is a felony only if the fugitive is convicted of any offense, if the warrant or process issued for the fugitive’s arrest is on a felony charge, or if the harbored fugitive escaped from custody.”

  • Burke Edwards

    “I want to underscore that we would never have participated or
    cooperated in this operation if we had known that it included
    immigration enforcement,” Vogel said. Boy, does that statement make him look like a dumb-bell. What does he think I.C.E. is an abbreviation of, International Cooperation Experiment?

    • If you are in law enforcement, being able to trust someone to “have your back” is crucial. Violating this trust between law enforcement agencies is a major breach of ethics…

    • Lora Moore

      Sounds like CYA to me.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969), was a United States Supreme Court case that affirmed the legality of deceptive interrogation tactics. The police, however, can use lying, trickery, and other types of non-coercive methods to obtain a confession from a suspect. 14-1373 Utah v. Strieff (06/20/2016) basically said the police can lie to someone and its ok. So why would any sane person be surprised that the Feds would lie to any one, local sheriff and police included?

  • FerretSage

    At first, I was greatly disturbed. But, then, it was all “they let 10 of the 11 immigrants go, but kept the last one cuz he’s a gang member and criminal.” Far less alarmed now.

    No blind deportations of people just trying to survive. Just fine immigration agents doing their job –carefully weeding the rotten apples from the good.


David Marks

David Marks is an interactive producer for KQED News and The California Report. He began as full-time interactive producer in 2015, after working as KQED's audio archivist and promotions manager for Radio. Prior to that, David was an announcer and DJ at NPR member station KRCC in Colorado Springs. Reach him at

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