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Border Patrol Vehicle Outside Orange County Church Raises Concerns

GARDEN GROVE ( — A Democratic congressman from Santa Ana said he was alarmed to see photos of what appeared to be an immigration enforcement vehicle "patrolling" outside Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove.

Rep. Lou Correa expressed his concerns Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly after receiving the pictures from the Diocese of Orange.

ICE vehicle Phot
(credit: Christ Cathedral)

"Christ Cathedral is my church," Correa said. "I know what it looks like, and these photos clearly show an ICE vehicle staking out the parking lot. This is despicable, and this behavior must end. It is intimidation, and it is wrong."

Diocese of Orange spokesman Ryan Lilyengren said the vehicle was seen on the Christ Cathedral campus on Feb. 17.

The Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, wrote a letter to Kelly expressing his concern about this situation.

"Additionally, Bishop Vann issued organizational and legal guidance to the 62 parishes and 41 schools within the Diocese regarding how to address the presence of ICE at our facilities. The message to Secretary Kelly and the guidance issued to Diocesan sites was focused on ensuring that ICE respects the due process rights of individuals and our institutions," Lilyengren said.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the vehicle shown in the photos actually "belongs to another agency, not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

Correa's press secretary Andrew Scibetta pointed out that the SUV was from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which he said worried the Congressman even more. "Why are they all the way up here patrolling a church?" Scibetta asked.

Scibetta forwarded to CBSLA the following statement he said was released by the CBP, saying the vehicle was there because one of its agents was attending a funeral at the church that day.

"On February 17, 2017, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer from the Los Angeles CBP Honor Guard attended the funeral of a military veteran at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.  The CBP Honor Guard has a proud tradition of routinely attending memorial services to honor law enforcement and military personnel who have bravely served their country. CBP was not conducting any law enforcement operations in or around the Christ Cathedral or immediate area."

But that claim has not been verified, according to Scibetta.

Prosecutors and attorneys reported that ICE agents have been showing up to courthouses in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado and arresting undocumented immigrants, sparking outrage.

On Thursday, California's chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Kelly about reports that federal agents "stalking" immigrants at courthouses.

"I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests," Cantil-Sakauye wrote. "Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country's immigration laws."

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