Raids rat­tle im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties

Ac­tions of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment rep­re­sent ‘new tac­tics,’ ac­tivists say

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JANELL ROSS, AARON C. DAVIS AND JOEL ACHENBACH janell.ross@wash­post.com aaron.davis@wash­post.com joel.achenbach@wash­post.com

Fear and panic have gripped Amer­ica’s im­mi­grant com­mu­nity as re­ports cir­cu­late that fed­eral agents have be­come newly ag­gres­sive un­der Pres­i­dent Trump, who cam­paigned for of­fice with a vow to cre­ate a “de­por­ta­tion force.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials in­sist they have not made fun­da­men­tal changes in en­force­ment ac­tions, and they deny stop­ping peo­ple ran­domly at check­points or con­duct­ing “sweeps” of lo­ca­tions where un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are com­mon.

But anx­i­ety among im­mi­grants spiked last week af­ter the Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency con­ducted a series of en­force­ment ac­tions in large met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas, de­tain­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple in Chicago, Los An­ge­les, New York, At­lanta and other cities.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional USA re­leased a state­ment Satur­day say­ing re­ports of the en­force­ment ac­tions “raise grave hu­man rights con­cerns.” Mem­bers of the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus de­manded an im­me­di­ate meet­ing with Thomas D. Ho­man, the act­ing head of ICE.

“These raids have struck fear in the hearts of the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity as many fear that Pres­i­dent Trump’s promised ‘de­por­ta­tion force’ is now in full-swing,” the law­mak­ers wrote in a let­ter to Ho­man.

What’s cer­tain is that even if ICE and other of­fi­cials say this is busi­ness as usual, many im­mi­grants find more per­sua­sive the words and ac­tions of Trump, whose po­lit­i­cal rise was pro­pelled by anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric, a vow to build a wall on the Mex­i­can bor­der and the prom­ise to de­port 3 mil­lion crim­i­nal im­mi­grants.

On Jan. 25, five days af­ter tak­ing the oath of of­fice, he is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ti­tled “En­hanc­ing Pub­lic Safety in the In­te­rior of the United States.” Me­dia at­ten­tion fo­cused on Trump’s call for an end to fed­eral funds for “sanc­tu­ary cities,” which do not au­to­mat­i­cally hand over il­le­gal im­mi­grants who come to the at­ten­tion of lo­cal law en­force­ment.

But the or­der also ex­panded the list of de­por­ta­tion pri­or­i­ties to in­clude any nonci­t­i­zen who is charged with a crim­i­nal of­fense of any kind, or who is sus­pected of com­mit­ting crim­i­nal acts or be­ing dis­hon­est with im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials. The or­der gives broader lee­way to ICE of­fi­cers in de­cid­ing whether some­one poses “a risk to pub­lic safety.”

For im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists, the rules of en­gage­ment have clearly changed.

“Don­ald Trump has ef­fec­tively cre­ated a way to de­port in­di­vid­u­als who have been ac­cused, charged or con­victed of any­thing from mur­der to jay­walk­ing,” said An­gel­ica Salas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion for Hu­mane Im­mi­grant Rights of Los An­ge­les.

Fear of be­ing de­tained or de­ported could lead many peo­ple to avoid go­ing to work, school or pub­lic places in com­ing days, Salas said. She noted that one per­son de­tained by ICE last week had been at his job in a Tar­get store.

“ICE wants us to be­lieve they have re­moved a bunch of felons who were just plot­ting their next crime,” Salas said. “We know that ICE picked up some col­lat­er­als, peo­ple who hap­pened to be nearby when of­fi­cers ar­rived look­ing for some­one else, and we think what we’ve just wit­nessed is how an em­bold­ened ICE will op­er­ate.”

Sev­eral un­doc­u­mented Los An­ge­les res­i­dents told The Wash­ing­ton Post that they did not want to be iden­ti­fied be­cause they fear the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could use news­pa­per cov­er­age to craft a list of de­por­ta­tion tar­gets.

Un­der poli­cies crafted dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond term, pri­or­ity de­por­tees in­cluded peo­ple who had been con­victed of mur­der and other vi­o­lent crimes as well as cer­tain drug of­fenses and gang in­volve­ment. Obama’s poli­cies called on ICE of­fi­cials to avoid de­tain­ing, when­ever pos­si­ble, nurs­ing moth­ers and those with se­ri­ous med­i­cal con­di­tions.

ICE last week has put out mes­sages on so­cial me­dia sug­gest­ing that the en­force­ment ac­tions were not part of a ma­jor crack­down or­dered by Trump. “ICE im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ac­tions tar­get spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als ac­cord­ing to the laws passed by Congress,” reads a tweet posted Thurs­day by ICE.

ICE spokes­woman Sarah Ro­driguez wrote in an email to The Wash­ing­ton Post: “ICE does not use check­points, nor do we use sweep­ing raids. We use tar­geted en­force­ment ac­tions against spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als to make these ar­rests.”

Im­mi­gra­tion rights ac­tivists are hop­ing to call at­ten­tion to the ac­tions of ICE while at the same time pre­vent­ing full-scale panic among peo­ple who may be avoid­ing go­ing to work or rid­ing buses out of fear of be­ing de­tained.

“We’re not try­ing to sow hys­te­ria here, so we’re not re­port­ing ru­mors,” said El­iz­a­beth Alex, a re­gional field di­rec­tor in Bal­ti­more County for CASA, an im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy group. “But it is fair to say we are see­ing new tac­tics across the county.”

She said ICE agents de­tained a hand­ful of peo­ple af­ter they ex­ited the county court­house in Tow­son, Md. In one in­ci­dent, on Mon­day, an un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant who had gone to the court­house to pay a ticket for driv­ing on a sus­pended li­cense was taken into cus­tody by fed­eral agents as he left, she said.

She added that CASA has doc­u­mented cases of il­le­gal im­mi­grants be­ing taken into cus­tody in re­cent weeks af­ter they showed up for check-in meet­ings with pa­role and pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers in the county.

In Mont­gomery County, con­sid­ered a sanc­tu­ary ju­ris­dic­tion, law­mak­ers and dozens of ad­vo­cates for the state’s im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion fanned out Fri­day evening and Satur­day morn­ing af­ter un­founded ru­mors cir­cu­lated on Face­book that a pub­lic bus had been raided by fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers. As the ru­mor went, of­fi­cers boarded a bus in the Wheaton area, home to a siz­able chunk of the Wash­ing­ton area’s Sal­vado­ran com­mu­nity, and be­gan re­mov­ing riders who could not pro­duce iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

ICE spokes­woman Ro­driguez de­nied that, and lo­cal of­fi­cials said they found no ev­i­dence to back up the ru­mor, ei­ther. Sim­i­lar un­founded ru­mors popped up else­where in the coun­try, in­clud­ing Port­land, Ore., and Austin.

The epi­cen­ter for the en­force­ment ac­tions in the Wash­ing­ton re­gion last week ap­peared to be a maze of gar­den apart­ments tucked in­side the Belt­way in An­nan­dale, Va., where more than a thou­sand His­panic res­i­dents live in apart­ments start­ing at $1,200 a month. Im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­neys said fed­eral of­fi­cers had staked out the Fairmont Gar­dens apart­ment com­plex at least twice last week, ar­rest­ing men as they left for work Tues­day and Thurs­day morn­ing.

“I fear we’re go­ing back to the bad days un­der [for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W.] Bush — or worse — when im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers were given quo­tas for ar­rests and whether they found their per­son or not, they filled up the van to meet the quota,” said Simon San­doval-Moshen­berg, le­gal di­rec­tor for the Le­gal Aid Jus­tice Cen­ter’s Im­mi­grant Ad­vo­cacy Pro­gram.

Vir­ginia state Sen. Scott A. Surov­ell (D-Fair­fax), held a town hall meet­ing Satur­day morn­ing in Mount Ver­non where more than 200 con­stituents showed up. Surov­ell dis­cussed pic­tures he had been sent of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers on Fri­day de­tain­ing a man about two miles away in the park­ing lot of an Aldi gro­cery store along Route 1.

He said he has heard that the surge in en­force­ment is scar­ing school­child­ren, who may avoid go­ing to school on Mon­day. “They don’t know if their par­ents are go­ing to be taken away,” Surov­ell said.

Dozens of com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ers held a tele­phone con­fer­ence Satur­day af­ter­noon to dis­cuss strat­egy, with one lawyer say­ing in Span­ish that im­mi­grants need to take steps to pro­tect them­selves.

“Do not open the door to your home with­out see­ing a war­rant,” he said. “Do not drive a car with bro­ken lights, and do not drive at all at night.” Ross re­ported from Los An­ge­les. Davis and Achenbach re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. Abi­gail Haus­lohner and Lisa Rein con­trib­uted to this re­port.

PHO­TOS BY LINDA DAVID­SON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

United We Dream, an ad­vo­cacy group led by im­mi­grant youths, or­ga­nized a protest at Lafayette Square in front of the White House to protest the re­cent en­force­ment ac­tions by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in sev­eral cities across the coun­try.

A boy and his mother at the rally. His­panic law­mak­ers say that the “raids have struck fear in the hearts of the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity.”

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