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Online Rumor Of ICE Operations In East Bay Leads To Panic

RICHMOND (CBS SF) – A rumor circulating online led to panic in the East Bay Wednesday afternoon when an unsubstantiated claim that federal immigration officers were conducting operations in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties went viral.

Around 12:30 p.m., numerous social media users began to copy and paste a detailed statement claiming that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers had set up a checkpoint at a retail store in Richmond, advising friends to avoid the area and tell everyone they knew.

The statement also indicated that the original poster was "getting word" of ICE agents at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, and that a sighting of two ICE vehicles had been "confirmed" near the West Oakland BART station at 11:30 a.m.

None of those claims have been verified, however. Contra Costa College issued a statement at 1:39 p.m. that campus police had not received any reports of federal agents entering their jurisdiction.

"If ICE agents were entering our campus, the protocol is to call and notify the local dispatch centers," college officials said. "At this point, there has not been any official notification."

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt later referred to the claims as false rumors, citing information he received from the Richmond Police Department.

"Multiple reports of ICE 'raids' today in the Bay Area have all been found to be false," ICE spokesman James Schwab said in an email Wednesday evening.

ICE enforcement operations typically target specific individuals on a case-by-case basis, rather than setting up checkpoints, according to Schwab.

"Our operations are targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities," Schwab said.

"Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions. To that end, ICE's routine immigration enforcement actions are ongoing and we make arrests every day."

Schwab declined to speculate on how Wednesday's rumor got started.  When asked whether ICE planned to investigate the incident, he said the agency's efforts were "focused on our agency mission."

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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