An outraged Congressman condemning “despicable” intimidation was wrong in assuming the feds were spying on his Orange County church, officials are insisting.
Instead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say one of its vehicles was at Crystal Cathedral last month because an officer was acting as an honor guard for a veteran’s funeral and not for any law enforcement purpose.
Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, raised concerns Friday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about photos of what appeared to be a vehicle from his agency “patrolling” the Christ Cathedral, the former Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove.
Correa received the photos from the Diocese of Orange.
“Christ Cathedral is my church,” Correa said. “I know what it looks like, and these photos clearly show an ICE vehicle staking out the parking lot. This is despicable, and this behavior must end. It is intimidation, and it is wrong.”
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the vehicle shown in the photos “belongs to another agency, not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Andrew Scibetta, a spokesman for Correa, said it appears the vehicle was from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, another agency under Homeland Security.
“That’s got us even more worried now,” Scibetta said. “Why are they all the way up here patrolling a church?”
The explanation from CBP shed light on the vehicle’s presence at the church.
“On February 17, 2017, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer from the Los Angeles CBP Honor Guard attended the funeral of a military veteran at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California,” according to a CBP statement.
“The CBP Honor Guard has a proud tradition of routinely attending memorial services to honor law enforcement and military personnel who have bravely served their country.”
The agency “was not conducting any law enforcement operations in or around the Christ Cathedral or immediate area,” it said.
Fears of deportation have increased since the unexpected election of President Donald Trump, who vowed a crackdown against those living in the U.S. without legal permission with criminal records.
The Most Rev. Kevin Vann, the Roman Catholic bishop of Orange, wrote to Kelly expressing his concern about the presence of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle at Christ Cathedral, according to Diocese of Orange spokesman Ryan Lilyengren.
Vann also issued guidance to the 62 parishes and 41 schools within the Diocese, focusing on ensuring that ICE respects the due process rights of individuals and its institutions, Lilyengren said.
Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, wrote a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Kelly about reports that federal agents were “stalking” immigrants at courthouses.
— City News Service
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