Below, Kevin Kelly relates an eyewitness account of what has turned out to have been an unprecedented non-workplace immigration raid in Kansas City. Previous parts of this series are linked below the story:
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Patrons of a troubled nightclub that was the scene of a joint raid by Kansas City police and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were held inside the club for up to five hours while the federal agents checked their fingerprints on an ICE computer for outstanding immigration warrants, according to a witness.
Speaking to The Catholic Key on the condition of anonymity for fear of further reprisals, a man who was detained and fingerprinted inside the club but charged with no crime said he was not allowed to leave for nearly four hours.
A friend who was with him at the Club Oasis, 2805 Southwest Blvd., when the raid began shortly before midnight Oct. 24 was not released until 5 a.m. Oct. 25.
The source, who speaks English with a heavy accent, said that both he and his friend were given written instructions to appear for a hearing Oct. 26 at the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Platte County, near Kansas City International Airport.
Another Latino, who spoke English without an accent, was allowed to leave shortly after the raid began after showing police an out-of-state driver’s license, the source said.
The source said that at least 200 patrons were inside Club Oasis when the raid began. He said that at least 100 of them were given the instructions to appear at the office in Platte County and charged with no other offense.
Suzanne Gladney, immigration attorney for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, confirmed that at least 60 Club Oasis patrons appeared at the Citizenship and Immigration Services office as directed. She said more people were issued the written instructions to appear, but could not say how many.
“I think we are talking between 60 and 100 people,” Gladney said.
Those people were in addition to the 23 people who were arrested and taken into police custody at the club that night, Gladney said.
Private immigration attorney Angela Ferguson said that the number of people who appeared apparently overwhelmed the Citizenship and Immigration Office.
“They were surprised,” she said. “They had to call the (ICE) officer who issued the instructions at his home and tell him to get over there.”
Ferguson said the people who reported were separated into smaller groups and given new dates to report.
Kansas City police continue to characterize the Club Oasis raid as a routine “tavern check” at a nightclub that had been the subject of numerous police calls.
On his Internet blog, Kansas City Police Chief James Corwin called the Club Oasis action one of 324 “tavern checks” that local police have made in 2010.
He also said that the Club Oasis check “by far yielded the greatest amount of arrests and drugs recovered.”
Corwin listed 28 violations charged against patrons or employees of the Club Oasis — four arrests for drug possession, four arrests for underage drinking, 13 arrests of people who had previously been deported, four arrests of people with outstanding deportation warrants, and three arrests of people who are under deportation proceedings for a past criminal history.
Both Ferguson and Gladney said that the people ordered to report later then released were not arrested and not charged with any other offense.
Corwin described a tavern check on his blog, Chief Corwin’s blog, in a post entitled “Club Oasis tavern check.”
“During such a check, detectives enter a business that is licensed to serve alcohol and check the IDs of all patrons to ensure that the establishment is conforming to the law. The IDs of all patrons are checked to see if they have any warrants,” Corwin wrote.
“The Vice section conducts about 30 tavern checks a month and has done 324 so far this year,” he said.
The anonymous source told The Catholic Key that there were some 200 people inside Club Oasis when Kansas City police, identified by markings on black flak jackets, appeared and secured all exits.
“We were just partying and dancing. There was no trouble that night,” the source said.
“They came in and turned off the music. Then they told everyone that they were going to check everybody’s identification,” he said.
He said that people began to panic, and two people tried to leave before a police officer “pointed a weapon at them, it looked like a rifle” and ordered them to stay.
A Club Oasis employee tried to calm the crowd, the source said.
“He told us not to worry, that all they (police) were going to look for was underage drinkers,” the source said.
At about that time, agents wearing jackets with “ICE” on the back entered the club with electronic equipment, which the source said was “computers.”
The source said that both Kansas City police and ICE agents made a quick check of identification, and told about half the people that they could leave.
One of them was the man who spoke unaccented English, the source said.
“He showed them (an out-of-state) driver’s license, and they told him he could go,” he said. “They must have believed he was American.”
The source said that he also showed his driver’s license.
“I showed them, but they asked me if I had my papers. I told them no, so they told me to stay,” he said.
One by one, he said, the approximately 100 people remaining in the club were fingerprinted electronically, and their fingerprints checked against a database.
“They had a computer,” he said. “You put your fingers on it and your picture would show up if you had been deported.”
The process, he said, took hours. When he was finally checked at about 3:30 a.m., the check showed no warrants against him and he was released. But he was still given instructions to appear at the Citizenship and Immigration Services office on Oct. 26.
A friend was one of the last to be checked, the source said. “He told me he couldn’t leave until 5 in the morning,” he said.
The source said he took Oct. 26 off work and reported to the office as instructed.
“A lot of people came to the place,” the source said. “They only took us in about 20 at a time, and they told us to come back later.”
He was given another instruction to appear in November, the source said.
The source said that he knows it is common for ICE agents to check for immigration status and work permits of employees at businesses.
“But this was a club,” he said. “We didn’t know they could do that.”
View part one of this series - ICE Presence at Club Raid Raises Questions
And part two - More to Kansas City Tavern Check than Reported