The prospect of nationwide immigration raids starting this weekend has spread fear in the Bay Area’s immigrant communities, and added new urgency to local advocates’ efforts to defend undocumented residents across the region.
Activists have set up a network of hotlines to confirm reports about raids, and readied a cadre of volunteer lawyers to assist detainees in court, in preparation for what could be the largest coordinated operation to detain immigrants since President Donald Trump took office.
“We want to respond with power, not panic,” said Sandy Valenciano, 26, an immigrant rights activist in Oakland, who is undocumented.
The Trump administration is planning to begin a nationwide immigration enforcement operation, moving forward with plans that had been announced — and subsequently postponed — by Trump late last month amid objections from Congressional leaders and officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
Though plans for the raids appear to still be in flux, multiple news outlets have reported that the operation is set to begin Sunday, and will target at least 2,000 immigrants with final deportation orders, as well as any “collateral” individuals without documentation who are found in the process.
At least 10 cities are expected to be targeted, including San Francisco. A spokesperson for ICE’s San Francisco office declined to confirm whether or where any raids would occur, but the office noted that it directs enforcement and removal operations around the Bay Area, not just in the city itself.
Activists monitoring ICE activity said they’d already seen a spike in Bay Area enforcement actions since last weekend, particularly in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
“It seems to us that their operation has already begun, in one way or another, here in Northern California,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, an attorney with the San Francisco Bar Association, which is coordinating pro bono legal assistance for immigrants detained locally.
Local officials have long been laying the groundwork to educate undocumented communities to respond to ICE raids and organize legal assistance.
“We’ve known this is coming,” said Zulma Maciel, the director of immigrant affairs at the San Jose Mayor’s Office. “That work was to prepare for moments like this.”
The primary piece of advice local officials and immigrant rights activists have been giving undocumented families is simple: Don’t open your door. ICE agents are not allowed to forcibly enter homes or businesses without a warrant signed by a judge.
Activist groups have also been urging undocumented people to make sure a friend or family member takes a video recording if they’re detained, in order to preserve evidence of potential violations of their rights. Many groups have distributed “red cards,” small cards printed in different languages that immigrants can keep in their wallets and present to ICE agents to declare their refusal to answer questions or allow searches.
The most extensive preparation in the region has been the establishment of rapid response hotlines, set up by nonprofits to collect information about ICE activities and deploy lawyers to help those detained. Anyone who sees ICE agents in their neighborhood can call a phone number to report their location. Organizers then dispatches volunteers to the site to confirm whether raids are taking place and document what’s taking place, and if necessary, sends lawyers to meet detainees at local detention centers. There are eight hotlines in the Bay Area, some of which have recruited extra volunteers to be on call this weekend.
One issue advocates are worried about: ICE headquarters in San Francisco is in a federal building that’s closed on Sundays, and in the past, attorneys have been unable to get inside to offer legal assistance to detainees on weekends. A group of pro bono attorneys went to the office Thursday to demand they be allowed to meet with anyone detained on Sunday, but their requests were denied, Panah said.
Groups opposing the raids argue that many of those allegedly targeted were ordered deported without being present in court. It appears that many were not informed about the immigration court proceedings, said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. Legal assistance can help migrants avoid or delay deportation, but U.S. immigration courts do not require legal representation for those in removal proceedings.
The alleged lack of notification is central to a lawsuit filed Thursday by New York-based Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and two other groups against federal government officials to halt deportations of families and children who were ordered removed without being present in court for the order since May 2014. The groups want a court order requiring those children and families to be given access to their immigration files, followed by a hearing before an immigration judge to determine whether their removal orders should be rescinded.
Meanwhile, Bay Area city leaders and police departments have stressed that local law enforcement does not enforce immigration law, and are prohibited from doing so under California’s “sanctuary state” policies.
“Know that you are in a community where you are supported, respected, and appreciated,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement Thursday, urging city residents to reach out to the Alameda County hotline.
If undocumented people are scared to interact with local authorities, that would make them less likely to report crimes and assist with police investigations, officials have said. There is also concern that an uptick in deportations will lead to increased separations of U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants from their parents.
“It strikes terror in all of our hearts,” said Carolina Martin Ramos, director of programs and advocacy at Oakland legal nonprofit Centro Legal De La Raza.
But local GOP officials have criticized Bay Area governments for spending public resources on helping undocumented immigrants avoid deportation.
“It’s hard to understand why leaders like Mayor Schaaf think, in their hubris, that they get to decide how these laws should be enforced,” said Hugh Bussell, chair of the Alameda County Republican Party. “These are people who had been remanded to leave but remained in the country anyway. It’s a function of the federal government to enforce the law.”
Immigration experts have noted that ICE could struggle to conduct widespread raids in a limited timespan. The agency makes most of its arrests in jails and prisons, after undocumented people are arrested for or convicted of crimes. It conducts far fewer “at-large” arrests of people in communities — in 2017, the agency made fewer than 14,000 of those detentions, Pierce said.
“The idea that they’re going to do perhaps 2,000 next week is very ambitious, especially considering the strains that they’re under right now with the crisis at the southern border,” she said.
Whether or not the raids succeed in rounding up the targeted individuals, the looming and ongoing threat of these actions could have long-lasting impacts on immigrant communities.
“There’s real damage to communities,” said UC Davis School of Law dean Kevin Johnson. “I’m not saying everybody’s staying home, but people are fearful of leaving their homes, fearful of going to work, fearful of going to school, fearful of going to the doctor, fearful of going to the DMV.”
The anxiety about the raids has taken a toll on immigrant families like Valenciano’s. She has protection from deportation under the DACA program, but her parents — undocumented immigrants from Mexico who have been the U.S. more than 25 years — do not. Since Trump first tweeted about the upcoming raids last month, she has taken time to sit down with them and make sure they know not to open their doors, keep their red cards in their wallets and have her phone number memorized in case an agent shows up at their house.
“More than anything, it’s just really exhausting to always think it could happen today,” she said, “not just to us but to someone we love.”
Source: Mercury news
Threat of ICE raids sparks fear, activism in Bay Area immigrant communities