Dear PoPville – Nanny Profiling in Columbia Heights Playgrounds – Is this for real?


Trolley Park at 11th and Monroe St, NW

Dear PoPville,

I saw this posting up on the Columbia Heights Yahoo Group. Wondering if anyone else can verify the story. If so, are the ICE/Homeland Security People for real? Sounds like a possible scam to me. Either way, very troubling. We have an Aupair for our two kids with legit visa etc. Anyone questioning her status in public and in the District can f**k off in my opinion. Original posting below.
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I’m hopeful you can help put a stop to this harassment that’s occurring at our playgrounds and in our community.

Over the last ~2 mos Homeland Security/ICE have been questioning nannies AT playgrounds in Columbia Heights (Girard St Park 14th / Monroe 11st Park — “Trolley Park”). There are 2 SUVs that sit near the parks, black Escalade /black Suburban (w/4 African American women seated in the SUVs). In some cases the women in the SUVs get out and question the nannies at the park (IN FRONT of children) — and in other cases they FOLLOW the nannies home from the park and question them on the street (also in front of children). They question only the minority nannies — and seem to approach them randomly.

In one case, a woman began questioning a nanny AT the park on Girard St — pretending she was interested in securing nanny employment, asking how this nanny secured her job. The nanny explained to her that she got her job via an agency and earnestly offered to help the woman and provide the agency phone number. Later, as the nanny was leaving the park with the two children she was caring for, the same woman, approached the same nanny and showed her badge indicating she was with Homeland Security and demanded her name, address, and other information.

In another example, a nanny left Trolley Park, an SUV followed her for a few blocks. Then pulled in front of her as she was walking down the street with the stroller– then a woman got out, began calling her ma’am repeatedly trying to get her attention — then asked her how she got her job.

In one case, after questioning a nanny, the nanny was arrested (14th and Girard).

I don’t know the nanny who was arrested but I do know the other two nannies well– and I can say with certainty they were unjustly and randomly harassed.

As a mother, I don’t like how our federal gov’t is enforcing their power in front of our children — and as a community member, I don’t like the fear that’s being instilled in our neighborhood. I don’t like our nannies / members of our community being profiled, followed, and harassed — in front of our young children. WHILE they are working.

Of course, I don’t have context for why this is happening. This seems like another case of the fed gov’t displaying their power in our neighborhood out of convenience — with no real motive or strategy just under the umbrella of the “Secure Communities Act”.

I would like this to stop. What can you do to help?

What can I do as a community member to stop this egregious harassment that’s occurring in front of our children?

This morning MPD wrote to the Columbia Heights listserv:

“The federal agencies contacted for mpd is not doing such stops or operations.”

Has anyone else seen these SUVs?

44 Comment

  • This is very disturbing. We live in Columbia Heights and my wife is a Nanny. I looked further through the yahoo group page and it looks like Graham and MPD is looking into this further. PoP please keep us up to date.

  • Does “for” = “by” in this sentence? I wish we could hire cops who know how to write in understandable English.
    “The federal agencies contacted for mpd is not doing such stops or operations.”

  • I have a hard time believing this is true.

  • While I understand where the OP is coming from, and agree with 90% of the concern, I don’t get why there’s so much emphasis on “in front of the children.” These so called officers were asking questions (I’m not ok with racial profiling) but it’s doesn’t sound like they were drawing their service weapons or throwing the Nanny in the back of a SUV. You’re children have seen far worse watching cartoons.

    • I am sorry I couldn’t disagree more. First, these individuals, no matter the color of their skin, have no obligation to speak to anyone who flashes a badge. For that matter, neither do you. Being an ethnic minority and working with children DOES NOT create the reasonable suspicion needed to for a brief investigative encounter under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1. In plain English, these women would be well within their rights to simply walk away with a summary “leave me alone.” This fact contributes to the notion that because people can just walk away from the police, or in this case ICE agents, those agents are doing nothing wrong. This attitude can only be found in people who have never been aggressively questioned by law enforcement. The more we say “well it OK for agents to stop you on the street, in front of kids, at your place of business, and aggressively question you, and demand your papers, because a) you can walk away if you wanted to, or b) their just doing there jobs, or c) this is how we catch bad guys, the closer we will be to the day it becomes legal for them to stop you on the street for no reason. Tomorrow it could be you.

      • should be “they’re”, not “their.” Sorry

      • Think you missed the point of her post, i.e. why the concern for “in front of the children.” Thanks for the hornbook summary of reasonable suspicion, though.

      • Typical paranoid hysteria.

        So, if people don’t have to answer their questions, the police shouldnt ask? Or further, should be barred from asking?

        To me, what is disturbing are the tactics of deceit and trickery involved. If they had immediately identified themselves as federal agents and stated they were involved in an investigation and asked questions, then there would be nothing at all wrong.

        However, in this case, we dont even know if these were actual federal agents, or a group of whackadoos.

        • No, the police shouldn’t ask–not if they don’t have a reasonable suspicion to believe the person is involved in something illegal. Reasonable, as in NOT based on assumptions that: a woman at the park midday is a nanny; a woman accompanying a child with a different racial/ethnic appearance is a nanny (news flash: some women of color have lighter-skinned children and vice versa); a nanny is likely in the country illegally or otherwise a security threat.

          I would imagine many people stopped for questioning don’t exercise their right to just walk away–either because they don’t know that’s their right, the law enforcement officer insinuates verbally or through body language that the person must answer questions, or they’re understandably caught off guard and intimidated. (And I’d imagine this is especially true for some immigrants who either aren’t yet familiar with American civil/legal rights or who come from countries with especially repressive police and military forces.) The average citizen doesn’t always know better–law enforcement officers do.

          • Right, police are only allowed to talk to people they think are guilty. You live in an alternative universe.

          • You mean an alternate universe where law enforcement respects individual rights and engages the general public in an ethical manner? OK, maybe that IS an alternate universe…but it shouldn’t be.

            Police can talk to whomever they want; it’s a free country. But getting in someone’s face and demanding to know their name, address, how they got their job, and other personal information (or rolling up on them in an SUV and demanding same)–and intimating that the person must answer when you know full well they have the right not to–doesn’t have quite the same connotation as “talking.” Maybe it’s technically legal to initiate this type of “talk” (I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say for sure), but it sounds to me like an awfully grey area when there is no basis for suspicion beyond someone’s race, gender, and perfectly lawful presence in a public space.

            It would be different if there were a basis for suspicion–someone matches the description of the crime suspect, they’re behaving suspiciously, law enforcement is following up on a tip related to those specific individuals, etc. (And since we only have the perspective of the listserv-poster to go on, it’s possible other factors were at play that DHS knew about and the neighborhood observer didn’t. Who knows.)

    • I don’t know why the OP said “in front of the children,” but I’ll answer from my perspective.

      Children can be suprisingly perceptive. Since the nannies spend a lot of time with them, the children can pick up on any emotions (threatened, scared, etc.) that the nannies may be experiencing when they encounter these agents. The whole nanny-child relationship may be affected.

      In any case, the whole scenario would make me mad if I was directly affected. I wouldn’t like strangers questioning my comings and goings. It’s one thing to investigage, it’s another to ask investigative questions in public. Bad tact, in my opinion.

  • The person who posted this seems to have no understanding of what Secure Communities is or does. Sending fingerprints of arrested individuals to DHS databases in addition to the usual FBI search has nothing to do with accosting nannies at playgrounds.

    However, while the tactics described here are by no means warranted, people should employ legal workers, pay living wages, and file proper paperwork for tax purposes.

  • heaven forbid we have people in this country that are hardworking and actively trying their damnedest to make a good life for themselves.

  • Only thing I have to say on this is A.C.A.B.

  • Whether or not this is actually going on, it’s important for everyone to know their rights.

    I was a community organizer in Michigan, where the police, ICE, and CBP would frequently stake out parks, schools, and shopping centers with a presence of “foreigners” and illegally stop and question individuals. At regional and national conferences with other community organizations, people from other states would share similar stories about being stopped and questioned. I would not be surprised for this to be happening in DC as well.

    Here is information that we used to share with the community:

    Know Your Rights! Conozca Sus Derechos!
    http://www.ilrc.org/for-immigrants-para-inmigrantes/know-your-rights

    Rights Card! Tarjeta de Derechos!
    http://www.ilrc.org/resources/red-cards
    http://www.ilrc.org/files/kyr_no_phone.pdf

    When speaking to police, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), or CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) you do NOT have to answer any questions. If you are in your home, you do NOT have to open your door unless the police officer or ICE/CBP agent has a warrant WITH YOUR NAME and ADDRESS on it.

    Cuando usted habla con la policia o la migra, NO tiene que responder a nigun pregunta NI decirles nada si usted no quiere hablar. Si usted esta en casa, NO tiene que abrir la puerta a nigun policia ni a la migra aunque ellos tienen un orden de un juez con su nombre y dirreccion.

    • Maya, the last sentence in Spanish is not the same as the one in english. It says that EVEN if the police has a warrant you don’t need to open the door. You are going to get my people in trouble! :)

  • Also, Casa de Maryland is the regional affiliate with the national organization, Domestic Workers Alliance. They offer legal assistance to Domestic Workers.

    Legal Program
    CASA de Maryland, Inc.
    8151 15th Ave.
    Hyattsville, MD 20783
    301-431-4185

  • If ICE was really concerned about illegal immigants in DC, wouldn’t they be staking out the Home Depot parking lot?!??

  • I’d be more concerned that the “agents” are sleazebags looking for more victims for human trafficking. They want to see who has the loosest perceived connection to the community so they can take young women off the street for profit. Someone needs to get pictures of these “agents” and circulate them amongst actual law enforcement.

  • Something doesn’t seem right with this story. At least from the OP – it doesn’t seem like they are giving a first hand account. I can’t put my finger on why it seems strange but it does.

    I walk by the Girard street park 2x a day and haven’t seen anything really out of the ordinary – which doesn’t mean something hasn’t happened – but still seems strange.

    It seems that ICE would not spend the manpower/resources on checking out nannies in DC in parks…does not seem to be a great ROI.

    • I can see what you mean. If this is happening, like I commented above, this type of profiling is troublesome; if it’s fake, the profiling is troublesome in theory. And if it turns out to be fake…well, I’ve given up trying to figure out people’s motivations for floating random hoaxes on the interwebs.

  • People, please get off your high horses. This posting doesn’t sound right for many reasons. I doesn’t even sound like something that really happened.

    I have a very intimate knowledge of what ICE/HSI does. They currently DO NOT stake out parks looking for illegals. In fact, they don’t even arrest someone just for being illegal anymore. As another poster mentioned, if all they were doing was looking for illegals, they are much better/easier places to look for them, um like the Home Depot example.

    If the nannies were really stopped by real federal agents (and that’s a big “if”), it is possible agents were on a real investigating of consequence (i.e. nothing to do with status). I can think of a thousand possible scenarios.

    • Or as others have suggested they aren’t agents but imposters.

      • Perhaps the imposters are ‘investigating’ which houses are occupied at different times of the day and by whom. In people’s minds having a nanny or au pair means the family must have money. If they have a nanny and a nice house (they are getting addresses from the folks they talk to) I wouldn’t be surprised if those addresses are targeted and burglarized when the nanny leaves to run errands.

        • *ding*ding*

          Winner winner, chicken dinner.

        • Seems like the most plausible alternate theory so far, but it would still be a rather strange way of going about it. Why not just observe nannies from a distance and discreetly follow them home and note the address? Less chance anyone would notice that–not to mention which, less chance the nannies would remember a description of the suspicious person who confronted them in the street claiming to be ICE and got all up in their business.

          Then again, not every criminal thinks their plans through 100%….

  • I would advise the nannies to ask for a badge number and identification (credentials, not just a flashed “ICE” badge) and then contact either the police or the ICE Community Helpline:

    http://www.ice.gov/about/offices/enforcement-removal-operations/publicadvocate/cmnty-helpline.htm

    This doesn’t sound legit to me. I have some insight into ICE activities and the agents really have better things to do. However, if ICE becomes aware of the issue (or the police do) they can prosecute. Impersonating a Federal agent is illegal and the police/ICE would surely be happy to prosecute.

  • Not to be that guy but this ain’t shit. Try being a black male in America just living. This whole post makes me laugh (not at the situation). Don’t get me wrong, it totally sucks but some of you all confirm a lot for me.

  • I doubt this is true. The current administration prefers drone attacks.

  • I’ve never seen a car full of women but I’ve often seen 4 men sitting in a car right in front of the Monroe st entrance to the trolley park. I figured it was drug related.

    My concern is for the nannies and children’s safety. My first thought is that they could be staking out these nannies with the plan of taking one of the kids. Very scary.

    I would recommend that the nannies immediately call the police when this happens. Although, I can understand their fear of doing this if they are here illegally.

  • Sorry, this sounds like an urban legend

  • I reported this to the ICE Public Advocate, and they said it not an ICE operation. They have passed the allegations along to the Mayor’s Office. Seems worth continuning to report incidents to MPD (though anyone without legal status should be very aware of the risks inherent in talking to police).

  • I realize there are now 2 aspects of this. I don’t belive the police MPD can question people about their status, but DC law doesn’t really apply the same way to Federal Police, ie Park Police and Immigration… can they do their own thing in their arena of operation?

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