On Friday, President Trump confirmed reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to conduct nationwide sweeps to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrant families that the government says have missed a court appearance or have been issued court-ordered removals from the country.
“It starts on Sunday, and they’re going to take people out, and they’re going to bring them back to their countries, or they’re going to take criminals out — put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from,” Trump said outside the White House.
The operations, which would be along the same lines as the one canceled last month, are expected to take place in at least 10 cities across the U.S. and last for days. According to reports, ICE is prepared to target more than 2,000 recently arrived migrant families — most of whom do not have criminal histories.
The raids will be conducted over multiple days. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock reported that they will go on through July 18 and that they will include “collateral deportations,” meaning that undocumented migrants who happen to be on the scene but are not the intended target could also be subject to detention.
The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said Thursday that there are approximately 1 million people in the country with removal orders.
“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said Thursday in a statement. “However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued in federal court in New York in an attempt to block the raids, arguing that many of the migrants didn’t get proper notice of hearings and were then ordered removed for failing to show up for court. But it is unclear if the lawsuit will have any impact on ICE’s intended actions over the weekend.
As the raids loom, local leaders and immigrant rights activists are trying to assuage the rising fear among immigrant communities. Here are a few actions planned in each city to cope with the imminent detentions.
A series of rallies has been organized as part of a national action to protest the expected deportation blitz as well as the detention of children in migrant centers. The protests started as early as Friday and are expected to go through the weekend.
The Rise Up rally, held Friday afternoon outside the ICE headquarters in San Francisco, calls for the closure of child detention centers and for separated migrant families to be reunited. A similar protest is scheduled to take place in Palo Alto in front of Palantir Technologies’ headquarters — the data mining company received a $41 million contract from the Trump administration to build and maintain an intelligence system called Investigative Case Management.
Lights for Liberty has coordinated national actions “for kids at migrant detention centers” that will include protests in every state from Friday through the weekend. Multiple events have been organized in the Bay Area, including demonstrations in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights — CHIRLA — is telling undocumented immigrants living in the sprawling metropolis to remain calm and “go on living their lives without fear.”
“We’ve been ready for many, many months informing the community about their rights,” Communications Director Jorge-Mario Cabrera told NPR.
The immigrant rights group has set up a robust cadre of attorneys prepared to provide legal assistance via a hotline number to anyone without a lawyer who is caught up in the sweeps. Three hundred attorneys make up the LA Raids Rapid Response Network and can be reached via a hotline phone number, according to Cabrera.
Individual attorneys will be assigned and deployed to meet people at either their homes — as a sweep is in progress — or wherever they are being held. Some will also be posted at the Los Angeles detention center downtown to offer their services to people as they are brought in, Cabrera said.
“If we are not able to help them for X or Y reason, then we will provide referrals to community attorneys that we can trust,” he added.
CHIRLA’s website also offers information about where to call to locate someone who has been detained by ICE. “We also have sample letters that [people] can use to write to ensure their children are taken care of by a loved one, and we have step-by-step instructions on how to set up a family plan,” Cabrera said.
Ahead of the raids, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock explained that the 10 cities bracing for widespread sweeps were selected because they “correspond with the immigration court dockets that have been set up to process families on an expedited basis.”
He added that he believes the operation will include rounding up children.
“We have on pretty good authority that ICE is actually making calls to cities that they are targeting and reach[ing] out to the human service departments and asking for assistance in the event that they are rounding up children,” Hancock said.
According to the mayor, the local government is marshaling its resources to spread the word that “police officers will not be involved in the raid.” Hancock added that immigrants who are arrested for other crimes by local officers will not be held “past their time in our jail cell without an official warrant.”
Hancock also noted that the city has a legal defense fund “that is designed to assist immigrants with their legal costs as they work to combat our push back on deportation and, hopefully, stay with their family.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told NPR that the prospective sweeps have “enhanced the anxiety level of people within my city.”
“I can’t quite see the upside,” Turner remarked, noting that such widespread dragnets keep residents from seeking out local services they need and also make people reluctant to call the police to report criminal activity.
Turner also echoed what other mayors around the country are saying with regard to the use of the local police force. “We are not going to be participating with ICE on these type of raids,” he said, especially in the case “of DREAMers and people who have been here for quite some time or people who have come to this country because they are seeking better opportunities.”
But he left open the possibility that officials may become involved in cases involving undocumented migrant criminals. “If we are talking about people with criminal records, people who have committed violent crimes, people who have felonies, people who are members of gangs like MS-13, that’s one thing, ’cause we certainly don’t want those individuals in our city, period, OK?” Turner said.
Tuner encouraged people who may be confronted by ICE to seek legal aid through the Immigrant Rights Hotline.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s immigration plans, said she is ensuring that the Chicago Police Department will not cooperate with ICE in any way.
“That means that they will not team up with ICE to detain any resident. We have also cut off ICE access from any CPD databases, and that will remain permanent,” Lightfoot announced at a news conference Thursday.
But local immigrant rights advocates have noted that existing loopholes allow for ICE to call on the police department’s help. As WBEZ’s Hunter Clauss reported, “Chicago cops can assist ICE agents if an individual is in the city’s gang database, is a felon, faces a felony prosecution or has an outstanding criminal warrant.”
Lightfoot has yet to sign the order.
Meanwhile, Mony Ruiz-Velazco, executive director of the PASO West Suburban Action Project, is cautioning undocumented residents caught up in the sweep not to open the door to ICE agents unless the agents can produce a warrant that includes specific family members and is signed by a judge.
Dozens of faith leaders participating in the Resurrection Project have pledged to be present in immigrant communities to help “protect families under attack.”
They are calling on congregation members to “defend, block and witness” as ICE seeks to carry out deportation orders. Throughout the week, faith leaders and other community members plan to “spend time in, shop and eat in immigrant communities,” including Pilsen, Little Village, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn and Hermosa, the group said in a press release.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms decried the raids in an interview with MSNBC on Friday, adding that they are unnecessary to protect local residents from harm.
She said Trump’s mention of the sweeps as a means of ousting MS-13 gang members from the country was disingenuous. “I meet with my police chief several times a week. Not one time has she mentioned that we need assistance with a gang through ICE coming through our community.”
Like several other mayors throughout the country who are preparing for ICE to roll through their cities, Bottoms stressed that the Atlanta Police Department will not cooperate with federal agents. She called the ICE raids “inhumane.”
“Our city does not support ICE. We don’t have a relationship with the U.S. Marshal[s] Service. We closed our detention center to ICE detainees, and we would not pick up people on an immigration violation,” she said.
Meanwhile, members of a Jewish advocacy group called Never Again Action say they are planning to “shut down” the downtown ICE office in a demonstration on Monday.
A block party to educate immigrants about the 2020 census has been planned at the Sara J. Gonzalez Memorial Park for Sunday. The mayor said ICE officials confirmed they would not “interfere or use the block party as part of its operations,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Tropical Storm Barry has put a stop to the immigration raids that were expected to take place in New Orleans on Sunday.
City officials made the announcement Thursday, and ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed the reports, according to NOLA.com.
“Immigration enforcement will be temporarily suspended through the weekend in the #Barry impacted areas of Louisiana & Mississippi. Make all storm preparations to stay safe regardless of your immigration status,” city officials tweeted.
Additionally, Cox told NOLA.com in a statement, “There will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to the storm, except in the event of a serious public safety threat.”
Immigrant rights advocates in Miami are scrambling to prepare makeshift safe houses for undocumented migrants in advance of the arrests.
NPR member station WLRN reported that activists are setting up “safe sanctuary spaces in secret locations for those seeking to avoid being caught up in the raids.”
Other advocacy groups are gathering supplies, including food and sleeping bags, to distribute to individuals and churches where families, hoping to evade ICE, may seek shelter, according to the Miami Herald.
Throughout Florida, where one in five residents is an immigrant, volunteers are canvassing neighborhoods with flyers containing immigrant rights information.
Law enforcement sources told the outlet that people with deportation orders remain the primary targets, but federal officials will also ask “other members of the household of an undocumented immigrant for their immigration documents.”
Earlier this week, Miami-Dade County commissioners advanced a plan to “expand the list of minor crimes that can be treated as civil violations, offenses that result in a ticket rather than a trip to jail,” the Miami Herald also reported.
The move is an effort to keep undocumented residents, whose immigration status is discovered during booking, out of the system.
The Miami-Dade police has made an agreement with ICE to hold suspected immigration offenders to allow federal agents time to detain them.
South Florida does not have family detention centers. ICE, therefore, plans to utilize local hotels to house families for up to 24 hours before they are transferred to facilities out of state. Local jails may also be used to hold adults.
Hundreds of people gathered to protest against ICE in several rallies across Baltimore on Friday night. And city leaders, including Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, have vowed that they will not assist federal agents with immigration efforts in upcoming days.
“Immigrants who call Baltimore home should not live in fear of family separation and deportation, and I will continue to do all that is in my power so that all Baltimore residents, including immigrants, feel safe and welcome in our city,” Young said in a statement Friday night, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The advocacy group CASA is planning to host a series of legal aid clinics early next week. Spokesperson Lizette Olmos said they will begin as early as Tuesday and will be held in several cities throughout Maryland. They will provide legal help to people whose family members have been arrested in the ICE raids and will also assist in tracking where they are being detained.
The Baltimore Sun estimated the ICE operation “could be similar to ones conducted since 2003 that often produce hundreds of arrests.”
New York City
While New York is one of the 10 targeted cities identified in reports about the ICE operation, CBS affiliate WLNY reports that the sweeps may extend into other areas of the state and New Jersey.
In anticipation of the sweeps, houses of worship are reaching out to immigrant communities. Some are quietly offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants while others are doing so openly, the news outlet reported.
The Bnai Keshet synagogue in Montclair, N.J., will offer shelter to people facing deportation.
The New York Immigration Coalition is urging all undocumented residents to seek free legal help before Sunday to learn about their full rights.
“You might have a deportation order against you. That does not give an ICE agent the ability to come into your door,” Executive Director Steven Choi said in an interview with NPR member station WNYC. “I would just say the advice to immigrant families and for communities is don’t open the door. Period.”
“You should be able to get a free immigration lawyer almost wherever you are. … Talk to an immigration legal provider — they’ll be able to help and let you know exactly what you can do,” Choi added.
He is directing migrants to the coalition’s website to view a “Know Your Rights” fact sheet, which is available in numerous languages, and tips on how to create a family plan in case parents are detained by ICE.