According to two current and one former homeland security official, thousands of undocumented families have been targeted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) with raids due to begin on Sunday. This is part of the Trump administration’s nationwide immigration enforcement operation, which had at first been postponed last month due to various concerns, with resistance even coming from officials at his own immigration agency. They will be specifically targeting people with final deportation orders or those who have crossed the border recently, even including families whose cases have been fast-tracked by judges in major cities such as New York and Chicago.
These proposed actions have sparked outrage among both democrats, immigration-rights advocates and communities alike. “Our communities have been in constant fear,” Estela Vara, a Chicago-area organizer said to Al Jazeera on Thursday at a rally. At this rally, held outside Chicago’s ICE offices, various protestors were chanting ‘Immigration not deportation!’ and distributing know-your-rights pocket guides and hotline numbers. Democrat senator Joe Manchin continued to critique Trump’s approach, “this is wrong, the way we’re doing it to basically further divide the country, and it doesn’t need to be done,” he told CNN. “It’s being used as a division for our country.”
However, despite critique, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli confirmed to reporters at the White House, “They’re (the raids) absolutely going to happen. There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And of course that isn’t what ICE will go after in this, but that’s the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.” Republican senator Chuck Grassley also commented, “I expect our law-enforcement people to carry out the law, whatever it is, as long as Americans’ constitutional rights are protected…In fact, I think it would be very bad for a nation built upon the rule of law if the law was not carried out.”
These raids appear politically motivated and cruel, with some parents at risk of being separated from U.S. citizen children and extensive worry and fear felt amongst communities across the United States. Whilst Sen. Grassley speaks of the importance of ‘American’s constitutional rights’, even these may be at risk during the separation of these parents and U.S. children, whilst human rights for all involved are certainly threatened: these raids come at a time of reports of deaths and mistreatment at government detention centres, and issues around legal rights of these immigrants to be able to appear in court remain prevalent.
The announcement of these raids come in a time when President Trump has been vocal on pressing down on ‘illegal’ immigration and trying to press ahead with adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census despite its Supreme Court rejection. It seems clear that Trump’s administration focuses on creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment for immigrants and asylum seekers, with Trump once tweeting in response to criticisms of conditions at the borders, “If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centres, just tell them not to come.” This attitude towards immigration is clearly continuing in the planning of these raids, with some ICE agents themselves, as reported by officials, already expressing discomfort at the potential detaining of babies and young children.
While some are sceptical that Trump will follow through on this threat, others question even the ability to effectively follow through with important information explained to immigrants to help them avoid arrest: by simply not opening doors to agents you can avoid arrest as they need permission to enter private homes, and you have the right to remain silent and ask authorities for proper paperwork. However, it still continues to be a troubling and uncertain time in the U.S. for these families, communities and individuals as Trump’s administration and his hard line on immigration persists.
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