Groups prepare for deportation roundups
Possible federal immigration raids could target people in 10 major cities this weekend
People living in the country illegally are bracing for possible federal immigration roundups this weekend that could target people in 10 major U.S. cities, including Denver, and activist groups said they are better prepared after President Donald Trump threatened to order the raids last month.
The news led Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and other Democratic elected officials to issue statements in support of the state’s immigrants. Denver Public Schools sent notices to students and parents saying its schools were safe places.
The threat of raids makes everyone in Denver less safe, Hancock said. When immigrants fear that they or their loved ones could be deported if they testify in court or go to the police, they pull back from the community.
“That is not OK for any of us,” Hancock said.
Trump on June 18 first said ICE would
target people with final deportation orders, including families whose immigration cases were fast-tracked by judges.
Information leaked that the raids would occur in the early morning June 23, but Trump then announced the operation would be delayed as a compromise with Democrats, who have opposed the roundups.
The New York Times reported Wednesday night that the roundups would begin Sunday in major American cities including Denver, Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore and Los Angeles. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will focus on people who have final deportation orders, The Associated Press reported.
Denver’s elected officials frequently have been at odds with the Trump administration over the president’s views toward immigrants.
Hancock vowed that regardless of the federal government’s actions, Denver will support people living in the country illegally. The city has a full-time immigrant and refugee office and has been working with community organizations on a campaign to make sure people know their rights, the mayor said.
The city also contributes money to the Denver Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal representation to those threatened with deportation proceedings.
The raid is politically motivated, Hancock said.
“Every time there’s an issue for him, most recently the Mueller investigation, Trump does something to distract from it,” the mayor said. “Trump is using immigrants as political pawns.”
Each time the president threatens to round up people living in the country illegally, many law enforcement agencies issue statements saying they will not participate in federal enforcement actions. On Thursday, Hancock again made the point that the Denver Police Department does not engage with ICE and will not be assisting with Sunday’s raids.
Still, immigrant families are on edge.
Community organizer Gina Millan of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights said some people are too afraid to take their children to school or to the doctor because they are worried they will be reported to ICE.
“A couple of days ago, there was a rumor that ICE was near a construction site and the workers fled the scene,” Millan said.
Alethea Smock, an ICE spokeswoman in Denver, would not confirm whether deportation roundups were scheduled to take place in the metro area, saying ICE does not comment on upcoming operations.
Activist groups have used the time since the first announcement to prepare for the roundups and make sure immigrant communities are educated about their rights.
“It’s been a really good stress test of our system,” said Ana Temu, the ACLU of Colorado’s immigration campaigns coordinator.
Since the raids were announced June 18, the ACLU of Colorado has given out 300 information packets and trained 200 people on what their rights are when interacting with ICE officials, Temu said. The goal is to help people protect themselves and their families in the event of a raid.
“We can’t stop the raids, but what we can do is educate the community to the point where we have an effect on how they play out,” she said.
After the June 18 announcement, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition organized training for more than 100 people in how to volunteer for its Colorado Rapid Response Network hotline, which responds to reports from the community of potential ICE presence and arrests.
Fear within the community has caused the hotline to receive a lot of false reports, said Cristian Solano-Cordova, the coalition’s communications manager. Any unmarked van lingering in the neighborhood can be mistaken for ICE.
As the ACLU has, the coalition has focused on informing people of their rights. It is encouraging people to make sure that ICE officials who request entry to people’s homes have a judicial warrant. Some agents have been showing up with administrative warrants, which are not signed by a judge and do not allow them access to private property.
The coalition also is reminding people that ICE agents are allowed to ask only for a driver’s license and insurance during traffic stops, and people are not required to disclose their immigration status.
Denver Public Schools sent robocalls Thursday afternoon in English and Spanish to parents informing them of the district’s commitment to supporting its immigrant students. A statement from Superintendent Susana Cordova on the district website said DPS will not share information about students with immigration officials unless required by law.
“Denver Public Schools is committed to ensuring that all of our families know their rights and that our schools are safe and welcoming places for all students, including for our immigrant students,” the robocall said.
Democratic politicians issued statements against the roundups, many criticizing the Trump administration directly.
“These reports are of great concern and another failure of leadership by the Trump administration,” Gov. Jared Polis said. “These actions make our communities less safe and increase distrust of law enforcement. Colorado celebrates our immigrant communities, and we will not allow the public safety of Coloradans to be held hostage by the Trump administration.”
“If President Trump was serious about addressing these problems, he would stop these cruel and dangerous tactics and work with Congress to develop comprehensive immigration reform and solutions to help those seeking refuge in our country,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat. “We should be working to help the men, women and children who have been forced to flee to this country out of desperation, not tearing their families apart.”
“The threat of separating families does nothing to make our country better or reform our immigration system,” U.S. Rep. Jason Crow said. “We stand with our immigrant neighbors and refuse to let this administration perpetuate a culture of fear in Colorado.”
Crow, an Aurora Democrat, recently announced that he will tour the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, which houses immigrants detained by ICE, every week to inspect living conditions. It has been accused of violating agency policy and providing unsanitary living conditions.
A protest at the facility will be held Friday night as part of a series of nationwide protests against U.S. immigration policy called Lights for Liberty. There also will be Lights for Liberty protests in Boulder, Lafayette and Longmont, and a separate march is being organized in Aurora by local socialist groups.
During a July 2 demonstration at the Denver offices of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, protesters place mementos on an altar in memory of people who died while crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. This weekend federal immigration officials may be conducting raids to arrest immigrants living illegally in 10 cities across the United States, including Denver.
Arnie Carter holds up a sign during a vigil outside of the Aurora ICE Processing Center in May.