When rumors circulated of ICE raids during the first five days of January, I looked into each report I received that occurred near my offices in Hempstead and Brentwood and found that each report was false.
However, there were a series of reports that I could not investigate and that included some disturbingly similar details. These reports centered on the repeated sightings of Homeland Security vans on the East End.
Although most of the reports came from the Hamptons, there were van sightings as far west as Riverhead. The vans described did not sound like the vans used by ICE to transport officers or arrestees, but they did sound like something a police force might use, so I did not want to simply discount them. The vans were described as large, dark, with just the words “Homeland Security” on them.
Finally, a former student of mine, Genesis Miranda, circulated a photo of the van that one of her clients took in Riverhead and sent to her. So, we now knew the source of some of the supposed sightings of “Homeland Security.”
There is a company in Montauk called “Homeland Seacurity” that does boat security for marinas. Their vehicle looks like a police van as you can see from the picture. “Homeland Seacurity” staff dress in uniforms that look like police uniforms. They are marked with insignia saying they are with “Homeland Seacurity.” They are not ICE, just private boatyard guards.
Looking at the picture, you could see why someone might think that was a truck for rounding up immigrants. If you speak a language other than English it is easy to miss the misspelling of the word “Security.” With vans like this cruising from Montauk to Riverhead, you can imagine the panic they could create.
This tells us how traumatized the immigrant community here is. A truck from an irresponsible company hoping to capitalize on the name of a government agency rolling around Eastern Suffolk was enough to keep Latinos home from work and empty out the schools. The panic was magnified because the real Department of Homeland Security was doing some grandstanding by rounding up mothers and children in an attempt to frighten child refugees from Central America.
Politicians and businesses should stop inflicting this kind of abuse on our communities.