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Baltimore Immigration Advocates Concerned over Detentions

New details are beginning to emerge about the arrests of two immigrants living in the country illegally.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official confirmed that the two men from Highlandtown were picked up as part of routine targeted enforcement operations.

An immigration advocacy group said both men have been part of the community for years, but are now being held at a detention facility in Frederick.

The arrests led to rallies over the weekend and into Tuesday. ICE officials confirmed that Serbando Fernando Rodriguez was detained Feb. 9 for illegally re-entering the United States after a previous deportation.

ICE said Manuel Lopez Suarez was detained the same day after "being identified as an immigration fugitive with a final order of removal."

Nick Katz, the senior manager of legal services at the Latino advocacy group CASA, said the men’s cases are complicated.

“There's a lot of people who are wondering what's going to happen to these guys,” Katz said. “They want to make it that simple but the reality is with Serbando he was threatened by gangs in his native Honduras, he was extorted, he was beat up, they said they were going to kill him."

Katz said Suarez missed an appearance in immigration court when he first got to the country about 16 years ago.

Some have questioned ICE’s presence in the first place in Baltimore.

“We certainly don't want them harassing people in our city,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said. “I'm very clear about that."

But the mayor also admits it depends on the people they go after.

"I would think if they're arresting violent criminals of any sort, that would be a good thing,” Pugh said.

ICE officials said it targets "individuals who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who re-entered the country after being deported and immigration fugitives ordered deported by federal immigration judges."

"To use that as a justification for some dragnet to pick people up when they've been contributing to society and have strong ties here just doesn't make any sense,” Katz said.

CASA said they will be pursuing asylum for Rodriguez since they argue it is too dangerous for him to go home.

As for Suarez, CASA is going to try and get him a day in court. ICE officials said both men were targeted based on investigative leads.

- WBALTV.com

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