SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA.com) – CBS2 took a rare look into the daily life of ICE officers in Southern California who are caught in the middle of today’s battle over immigration.
“I have friends across the political spectrum, and there are some that don’t necessarily agree with what I do,” said Agent Jorge Field with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
CBS2’s Jennifer Kastner was in San Clemente at dawn, just before a secret operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“Fifty percent of the country is mad at us 100 percent of the time,” said David Marin, Los Angeles Field Office Director for ICE.
CBS2 waited months for immigration authorities to approve its request to follow officers on an operation. For their safety, some officers’ identities are protected.
On this operation, ICE has a list of targets — immigration fugitives — with serious criminal histories. One of their first stops is surprising, a mansion right on the water in Newport Beach, with two Corvettes in the driveway. Officers are allowed on the property to search for a Mexican national, Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, who gets caught around the back of the home on a yacht.
Still in his pajamas, Gonzalez is taken into custody. It is believed he stayed at the mansion as a groundskeeper.
ICE tells CBS2 that Gonzalez should not be in the U.S., has a long criminal history, including burglary and domestic violence. He was deported once, ICE officials say.
“I’ve never actually had to go onto a boat to make an arrest, so that’s a first for me,” Field said.
Gonzalez told CBS2 he has four children in the U.S. He was emotional as he was taken into custody.
“I love them more than anything in my life,” Gonzalez said.
Field, a first-generation American of Mexican descent, has been called a traitor by other Latinos. He and his team have faced scrutiny from all sides.
“I mean, all of our agents have been sworn at, have been yelled at, but every so often, we also get that person that comes up and says, ‘Hey, I appreciate what you’re doing,’ ” Gonzalez said.
ICE says most of its arrests are done quietly, like one CBS2 witnessed in a gated community in San Clemente. A 35-year-old Iranian national ICE said was convicted of attempted murder, aggravated assault and driving under the influence of intoxicants was taken into custody.
“The subject was actually sleeping in the living room, on the couch,” Field said.
ICE admits it also arrests undocumented immigrants who don’t have criminal records. However, it maintains the vast majority of target fugitives are those with serious criminal records that pose a threat to public safety, like a 21-year-old Mexican national who was arrested in a traffic stop in Santa Ana. ICE says he is a convicted child-sex offender.
Gonzalez now faces criminal prosecution.
“We’re taking these people that are convicted criminals off the streets and out of these communities where they are victimizing the people who live there,” Field said.