El Vaquero

During a lunch hour that would normally be busy, there is an empty lot in front of El Vaquero's following Wednesday's federal raid.

The Stillwater Police Department released a clarifying statement Thursday in an effort to tamp down reports that Wednesday's federal raid had been part of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement roundup.

People first learned of the raids when they tried to go to lunch at either El Vaquero or Palomino's and found federal agents turning them away at the door. That led to social media posts, which led to speculation about the nature of the investigation.

"On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security served several search warrants in the City of Stillwater. These search warrants were the result of a criminal investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The Stillwater Police Department cannot provide any information related to the search warrants and requests for additional information should be directed to the HSI public information office," Capt. Kyle Gibbs wrote Thursday morning. "The HSI search warrant service resulted in several undocumented immigrant adults being detained and brought to the Stillwater Police Department. HSI returned the majority of those individuals to the location where they were contacted, within a few hours. Those who were not released were taken into custody by HSI for federal violations.

"Several people took to social media and made inaccurate statements that 'ICE' (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents were in town and 'rounding up' immigrants and taking children into custody. The erroneous information spawned more social media posts, which continued to distort the already incorrect information."

HSI is a department within ICE (which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security), but differs from the crackdown on undocumented immigrants performed by the agency's Enforcement and Removal Operations.

Mayor Will Joyce also tweeted earlier today, hoping to provide clarity with much of the same sentiment as SPD's message. 

"I know that current policy and practice of Federal immigration enforcement is controversial. In trying to clarify the facts about Wednesday’s events, I do not mean to justify or defend the policies or tactics of the Fed. agencies involved, nor do I intend to criticize them," Joyce wrote. "I don't have enough facts right now to make that determination. We are all waiting to hear more from the US Attorney and DHS about the reasons for this investigation. Please also note that SPD does not consider immigration status when providing services."

Gibbs wrote that SPD often comes into contact with undocumented immigrants, but did not want anyone to have to fear coming to the police for help.

"The Stillwater Police Department regularly contacts undocumented immigrants in our community We do not treat these community members any differently than we do any other citizen. Undocumented immigrants who are victims are provided the same level of service and afforded the same resources as any other community member," Gibbs wrote. "Misinformation posted on social media could result in undocumented members of our community being hesitant to call the police when they need help or assistance. Spreading misinformation places these members at an increased risk of being victimized and alienated from the services available to them through law enforcement and our community partners."

"The Stillwater Police Department is committed to providing all members of our community with the same professional police services."