And so the raids begin...
On January 2, the first of the raids and deportations of Central American families — mostly mothers and children fleeing violence — the Department of Homeland Security had reportedly been planning, started in earnest. 121 people have been rounded up so far in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
In Georgia, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived in an unmarked car, entered a home without a search warrant, and eventually took a mother and her 9-year-old son into custody, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
For its part, Mundo Hispánico reports that about 50 families in the Atlanta area are on ICE’s deportation list, and that they themselves know of eight families that have already been arrested, three from El Salvador, three from Honduras and two from Guatemala. In an affecting video interview (in Spanish) with a young woman who saw ICE take her mother and siblings away for deportation, Mundo Hispánico learned that ICE agents allegedly gave false names of those they were searching for in order to gain entry to the home.
The raids with intent to immediately deport those who many (including the U.N.) think should be considered refugees, have been widely decried by advocacy organizations and two of the Democratic presidential candidates (Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders). “Instead of closing the door to people seeking refuge in the U.S. ... DHS should focus its efforts on providing opportunities for people to normalize their legal situation,” said Manuel Portillo, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition (PICC).
Portillo, who himself fled Guatemala in the 1980s during bloody armed internal conflict and genocide that left an estimated 200,000 dead, added: “We need a complete overall of immigration laws, not just short-sighted enforcement of inadequate laws. We need a long term solution to immigration, not just patches that instead of helping make the problem worse.”
With its focus on apprehending mostly women and children fleeing countries with some of the highest violence rates in the world, the programmed raids do call into question the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement priorities.
The raids have already thrown advocacy groups into emergency mode, disseminating information about rights to panicked families who are scared they might be targeted by the raids. Presumably only those subject to final orders of removal are being singled out for immediate deportation, but since few undocumented immigrants have access to legal counsel, they might — like the family from Georgia the LA Times interviewed — not even know if their situation puts them in immediate jeopardy.
In Philadelphia, both Juntos and New Sanctuary Movement have issued best practices guidelines in Spanish apprising folks of their rights if ICE shows up on their doorstep. One of those practices, as outlined by Juntos, is If ICE agents come to your door, you have the right not to open your door, and to ask them to see a warrant (which you can ask them to slip under the door). This warrant must have the address and the name of someone who lives there. If it does not, you do not have to open the door.
New Sanctuary Movement counsels keeping silence (“You are not obliged to answer any questions”) and not to sign any kind of paperwork without first consulting with a lawyer.
If you have questions call Juntos at 215-218-9079 or New Sanctuary Movement at 215-279-7060.