Border Patrol Agents Detain Undocumented Man
Federal Border Patrol Agents arrested a man on his way to Oberlin Municipal Court April 5 after learning his visa had expired. Naranbataar Ganbaatar, a 30-year-old Mongolian citizen, was charged with felonious assault following an incident on Feb. 15 when he allegedly attacked a bus passenger on the way to Vermillion.
Upon arrival at the Oberlin courthouse for a 2 p.m. hearing, the agents arrested Ganbaatar in the parking lot and turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Attempts by the Review to contact ICE for further information on Ganbaatar’s status were unsuccessful.
According to interim Oberlin Police Chief Michael McCloskey, around six to eight agents, some of whom were dressed in plain clothes while others were in uniform, arrived in unmarked cars. Since these were federal officers, the operation did not involve the city police. The agents arranged for two city police cruisers to stand by as backup, but no prior notification was given to the local police of the planned arrest. McCloskey said he wished the agents had given more of a heads-up notice, as organizations like the FBI have in the past.
“Normally we do get a heads-up just as a common courtesy,” McCloskey said. “There’s no requirement, but certainly that’s what we’d prefer. Especially if it’s an undercover operation with officers who may be in town reported as suspicious — maybe they’re staking something out in town — sometimes they’ll give us a heads up that ‘Hey, we’re going to be scouting out this area.’”
Because the border-patrol arrest prevented Ganbaatar from being present at his hearing, state prosecutor Frank Carlson prepared a motion to dismiss the assault charge, which he sent to Oberlin Municipal Court Judge Thomas Januzzi an hour after Ganbaatar’s scheduled court appearance.
Although Januzzi said that “the reasons were because the person was going to be unavailable because he was taken away,” the motion only briefly mentions the arrest by federal agents as a reason for dismissing the charge, stating, “It is not clear what will happen at this juncture.”
A larger portion of the motion lists other reasons to dismiss the charge, such as the fact that Ganbaatar “suffers from a bipolar condition,” and that he and the victim resided in California and New York, respectively, meaning it would be difficult to bring both to Oberlin.
“The level of his medications was being adjusted at the time,” Carlson wrote. “He has since received lower dosages and is doing better. The State feels that the offense resulted from his bipolar conditions and the medications he was taking at the time.”
Although it’s unconfirmed whether ICE will deport Ganbaatar, Customs and Border Patrol Public Affairs Officer Kris Grogan wrote in an email to the Review that he “has been processed for removal proceedings.”
Grogan did not explain how CBP selects undocumented citizens to deport, simply saying they picked Ganbaatar because they noticed he had been charged with felonious assault and therefore was “a public safety risk.”
According to McCloskey, city police do not look into a person’s immigration status following calls for assistance, and they always act within the city’s resolution to resist federal inquiries into the immigration status of Oberlin residents.
“Our practices are in alignment with the resolution, so our main focus is to provide people in the community help and assistance when they call for it,” McCloskey said. “That’s the overall goal of the resolution, that no matter what your immigration status is — whether you’re undocumented or not — you shouldn’t be afraid to call for help. We’re not there to investigate their immigration status. Obviously if there were a criminal matter, we would handle that differently. But enforcing civil immigration law is the federal government’s responsibility.“
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for increased deportations of undocumented immigrants, Grogan said there have been no new policies on deportation.
“Our mission has not changed since the new administration has taken over,” Grogan wrote.
However, Peace Church Reverend Mary Hammond thought there could be a connection.
“I mean it’s definitely in line with the way things are going already,” Hammond said. “I think it’s concerning to everyone.”
Members of Obies for Undocumented Inclusion, a group that looks to support fellow undocumented students in the College, declined to comment on the incident.
Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo said she wasn’t sure whether this was a continuing trend of Trump’s agenda, and that she wanted to avoid adding to any growing anxieties about the issue on campus.
“I believe strongly that educators need to challenge changes to immigration policy and enforcement that harm the learning environment on our campuses and stand up for all students, including undocumented students, as valued members of our communities,” Raimondo said in an email to the Review. “College administrators continue to closely monitor policy and practices related to immigration and proactively communicate with directly impacted students.”