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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Reports of Raids Have Immigrants Bracing for Enforcement Surge

In Austin, Tex., undocumented women working in a laundromat cowered in the back of the room, petrified after seeing a video and a photograph of apprehensions outside a local grocery store and burger joint.

A day laborer and mechanic in Staten Island told his 17-year-old son where the list of emergency contacts were, including the name of the guardian who would take responsibility for him and his two younger siblings.

In Savannah, Ga., undocumented restaurant workers were asking for rides rather than walking home, afraid they might be stopped and questioned.

As reports of immigration raids and roundups have rocketed across Twitter, Facebook and texts around the country, undocumented immigrants, their lawyers and advocacy groups are bracing for the increased enforcement that President Trump has called for.

Susannah Volpe, a managing attorney at Ayuda, an immigrant legal services group in Washington, said she had noticed what seemed to be roundups of people, like those without criminal records, that the government had not previously paid much attention to.

“These are agents going into apartment buildings or agents going to worksites,” said Ms. Volpe, who had a client arrested, along with five others, at a construction site in Washington last week. “This is new.”

School principals in Los Angeles have been sent a checklist of things to do in case immigration agents turn up. The Mexican government even warned “the entire Mexican community” in the United States “to take precautions and to keep in touch with their nearest consulate,” after the deportation of a woman who had previously been allowed to remain in the United States.

Her case “illustrates the new reality” in the United States, said the message, from the foreign ministry.

In an executive order Jan. 25, Mr. Trump greatly expanded the categories of undocumented immigrants who would now be priorities for deportation, in keeping with his campaign pledge to be tough on illegal immigration. But despite numerous reports of mass roundups, it was still unclear Friday whether the promised surge in enforcement had actually begun.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said the immigration roundups that people were seeing did not represent an increased tempo. The agency has about 100 fugitive teams constantly working to bring in those wanted on a variety of immigration offenses, and these teams have been just as active as they were during the Obama administration, officials said. In 2012, the most active year for deportations during Mr. Obama’s presidency, 409,849 people were deported.

In a news release Friday, ICE described as routine a five-day “targeted enforcement action” in which roughly 160 people were arrested in six counties around Los Angeles. Of those, 150 had criminal histories, some of them serious.

Some had already been ordered deported before Mr. Trump took office; according to ICE statistics, there are 960,000 people with deportation orders who are not in custody.

“The rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” ICE said in a statement Friday. “These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger.”

Officials noted, however, that they did expect the numbers and deportations to increase in line with the president’s order. In Los Angeles, for example, the county sheriff’s department was told by ICE that it planned to issue “detainers” for every illegal immigrant charged with a crime, no matter how serious, according to Capt. Elier Morejon.

Jonathan Blazer, the advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group had been wary of deportation tactics for years.

“One challenge here is that every single enforcement action done outside the jail looks like Trump’s deportation force,” he said. “But as we know, under Obama enforcement was very high.”

“The distinguishing factor under Trump is justifiable fear and anxiety,” he added. “Those are categorically new.”

Though New York City is a so-called sanctuary city where the police and jail officials do not automatically cooperate with immigration agents, undocumented immigrants can still be picked up in many places.

Patricia Lavelle, a public defender in New York who represents immigrants in criminal cases, has begun telling her clients about the two main places where they could be apprehended by immigration officials: outside of courthouses before or after appearances, or at home, if they are living at the same address that they provided to the police when they were charged.

“I’ll ask, ‘Are you still at that address? Because if you are not, it’s harder for them to find you,’ ” she said, “You sort of let them put two and two together.”

As to whether that advice could lead some clients to avoid showing up for court — lawyers are not supposed to encourage clients to become fugitives — “there is a tension there,” Ms. Lavelle said.

“But I would tell them that a warrant issued for your arrest is not something you would want.”

Immigrant advocacy groups like Make the Road New York have been holding regular “Know Your Rights” workshops in case ICE comes to the door, and one on Wednesday in Queens drew 40 people.

On the advice of La Colmena, a group that assists day laborers in Staten Island, Armando, 45, who asked that his last name not be used because he is in the country illegally, filled out an emergency packet, hid it inside his home and told his oldest son, Johnny, where to find it. “He told me, ‘Do not worry, nothing is going to happen,’ ” Armando said. “I don’t know if he says that to keep us calm or because he just does not want to think about it.”

Esmeralda, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico in Alexandria, Va., is trying to find a new place to live with her 2-year-old daughter after her husband was deported to Mexico after a routine check-in at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office. She is now wondering if she should apply for a visa — which could end up in her becoming legal, or put her at risk because it notifies the government of her presence here.

“I have to look out for her,” she said of her daughter. “It’s just me and her now.”

In Savannah, the immigrant community has been on high alert this week. Social media posts spread around town, warning of the presence of ICE agents in various trailer parks, and informing people of their rights if confronted by an agent.

“Attention, people of Savannah and the surrounding areas,” declared a Spanish-language message posted Wednesday on the popular Facebook page Latinos Mexicanos Savannah, which was subsequently shared more than 400 times. “This is to inform you that we have been notified that immigration agents (ICE) are going to the trailers, knocking and taking people away.” It continued, “Be very careful.”

In Austin on Friday, more than a dozen women in a laundromat were trading news in Spanish gleaned from text messages and Facebook feeds about enforcement actions in the area. In one case, an ICE agent was injured during a scuffle with a man who had been arrested in a parking lot, according to the agency.

“There’s no doubt that ICE officers have significantly more presence in Austin, and they are arresting people at street stops,” said Denise Gilman, director of the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic. She said it appeared the agency was targeting people who already had deportation orders against them, and then catching others in their dragnet.

One woman in the laundromat, who is 42 years old and asked not to be named because she came here illegally from Mexico, wrote down a list of phone numbers for her boss, who is documented, and arranged for her boss to pick up her 11-year-old son from school if she was detained.

“I wanted to throw up, but now I have a plan so I feel calmer,” she said.

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