ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Seventeen-year-old Ricardo Gonzalez fought tears as he watched immigration agents lead away his mother and father in handcuffs, minutes after entering their mobile home in an early morning immigration raid.
"My heart was destroyed. I knew my life wasn't going to be the same," he said. "I felt bad for my older brother, because he's almost 20 and he has to take care of a family now."
Many Latinos in this small central Washington college town nervously hid behind closed doors Friday following Thursday's raid that resulted in more than two dozen arrests and left relatives scrambling to find child care for the children left behind. Residents reported raids at three mobile home parks in Ellensburg, which has about 17,000 residents and is home to Central Washington University.
Fourteen people made initial court appearances Friday on charges of using false documents or falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One was charged with re-entry into the United States after deportation. Sixteen others were being held on immigration violations at a detention center.
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Of the 14 people arrested on criminal charges, 13 are women, one of whom is several months pregnant. The lone man is a longtime church pastor.
In a statement, ICE officials said the investigation centered on the manufacture and purchase of counterfeit identity and employment documents.
However, as of Friday, none of those arrested faced those charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice said.
"Those who create and sell fraudulent documents compromise our nation's legal identification system and provide counterfeit identities to those who may otherwise be ineligible to live or work legally in the United States," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the agency's Homeland Security Investigations in Washington state.
More than 200 people turned out to First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg at a public meeting to discuss the raids. Those attending included faculty members and students from Central Washington University.
Some Latino families cried, while others admonished local law enforcement for participating.
Alma Borrayo, 40, said immigration agents broke through her front door with guns in search of her 20-year-old daughter, Monica, accused of using false documents.
Clay Myers, Kittitas County undersheriff, told residents he came to the meeting to recount his agency's role in the arrests, which he said were intended to target those facing criminal charges, and to help the community move forward.
Local resident Jennifer Lewis credited local authorities for attending the meeting, but said the onus is on them if they were involved in arrests that were not handled appropriately.
Raymond Hall, CWU professor of African-American folklore, said he wanted to show his support for the community he serves and the students who trust him.
"If I'm putting myself out there as someone who has their interest at heart, I need to be here," he said, adding that he can empathize with the families.
"I have children. How would I feel if it happened to me and they snatched me and sent me somewhere and left my kids behind?" he said. "Especially if the reason I came here in the first place was to make a better life for them."
In Yakima, tearful relatives, some holding sleeping babies, looked on in court, as a toddler happily crawled on the floor.
"All of our friends are in there, our families, our extended families," said Helen Lopez. "It's our whole community. And it's all of our women - mothers."
Lopez and her husband, Armando, were still searching for his sister, who was being held on an immigration violation. They now are caring for the sister's two young children along with their own four children.
Silvia Barrientos said the trailer park where the raid happened is now empty.
"Very few are left," she said. "They know Mexicans live in the trailer park, and here the agents came."
Barrientos' husband was preparing to go to work around 6 a.m. Thursday when police and immigration agents arrived at the trailer park with guns drawn. She said they were shouting orders and knocking down doors, including her brother-in-law's.
"They're saying they're criminals. They're not criminals," Barrientos said.
Barrientos said her brother-in-law, Gilberto, and his wife were arrested and authorities didn't tell her why.
She said Gilberto Barrientos has been a pastor at the Iglesia Pentecostal Monte Sinai, a local church for the Latino Community, for more than 10 years. Friday afternoon, several church members gathered in the church's basement to talk about the raid.
Barrientos said she was asked to take in Gilberto's 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, whom she described as being petrified. On Friday afternoon, a family friend had taken them out to distract them. She said they were afraid to go to school.
Michelle Bibich, principal at Morgan Middle School, said no agents showed up at the school Thursday, but that word spread quickly about the raids, worrying the students. About 13 percent of the school's 700 students are Hispanic.
"Our kids, regardless of race and ethnicity, were concerned for their friends and their friends' families," Bibich said. "It was pretty traumatic."
Agents handcuffed Ricardo Gonzales and his younger brother, 15-year-old Ramon, along with his older brother and parents on Thursday morning, he said. The two boys went to school Thursday after the parents were led away.
"If I stayed home, I knew I would be more upset," he said.
David Ayala, organizing director for Seattle-based OneAmerica, the state's largest immigrant advocacy group, said his group is sending volunteers to help the families deal with the raid's aftermath.
"It's sad how this happened," Ayala said. "The crimes these people are accused of ... they are crimes done because they want to work."