How ICE Picks Its Targets in the Surveillance Age

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he winter after Donald Trump was elected president, strangers began appearing in a parking lot on southern Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula, at the port where the oyster boats come and go. Rather than gaze at the bay or the boats or the building-size piles of bleached shells, two men — one thinner, one thicker — stared at the shellfish workers. The strangers sat in their vehicle and watched the workers arrive in their trucks. They watched the workers grab their gear and walk to the docks. The workers watched them watching, too, and they soon began to realize that the men were from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When the workers made eye contact, the officers nodded politely, but they said very little. For weeks, they just watched. Then the workers began to vanish.

The officers got someone at a restaurant in the town of Long Beach. They got someone else in a predawn takedown at the port. They arrested a man early one morning in nearby Ocean Park and spent the rest of that day looking for another in the town of Chinook. Then, another day, they went back to the port for another morning arrest.

The men from ICE made courtesy phone calls to the local authorities at the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office before making arrests, and local A.C.L.U. volunteers later obtained recordings of the calls, so it is possible to reconstruct the officers’ growing familiarity with the peninsula and its residents. “Yes, ma’am,” the thinner one said, in a call recorded that January. “My name is Officer Lonnie Miller with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We’re going to be conducting an arrest out in the Nahcotta boat basin area this morning.”

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