July 4 (UPI) — The Trump administration’s threat of immigration raids after the Fourth of July has prompted a surge of fear in minority communities across the country.
In response, non-profit groups have begun to warn undocumented residents to beware of law enforcement officers and to be aware of their rights if detained.
“We really want them to know not to open the door at home, or windows,” said Nancy Batista, Florida director for Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit organization that helps people apply for citizenship and the right to vote.
“The moment you open the door slightly they will push it open, and they will then seek out other people in the house. We’ve seen this happen,” Batista said.
The group planned a meeting with about 20 other non-profit groups in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, part of the Trust Orlando Coalition, to plan a community response to raids.
Batista and others also warned that Florida’s new law against texting while driving is a new tool for law enforcement. Their advice is to make sure you don’t leave home without proper identification.
“Even if you are a citizen, and you are pulled over and can’t prove it, the deportation process can be started at that time,” she said. “We are advising people not sign any paperwork, as we’ve seen people mistakenly sign papers to waive their rights. You have the right to remain silent and to get an attorney.”
President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, “After July 4, a lot of people are going to be brought back out.”
He had announced the raids on Twitter weeks earlier, saying that “millions” of illegal immigrants would be apprehended and deported. But he delayed the raids while Congress was in recess for the holiday.
Edwin Olguin Martinez, 24, of Orlando, began filling out an application to become a citizen this week out of fear of the raids and the ongoing crackdown on illegal immigration. He is a legal resident with a green card who moved with his family to Florida from Mexico when he was 6 years old.
“I have friends who are afraid to go to big events or to go out much on weekends,” he said. “My family is legal, but I know friends whose families are of mixed status. Just knowing that families could be split up, with some deported, that does worry me.”
Across the country, the threat of ICE raids has put the immigrant community in Denver on alert, said Jamie Torres, of the city’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships.
‘A sense of panic’
Even though ICE enforcement actions are “a reality” in the Denver area, she said, the president’s threat “sends the [immigrant] community into a frenzy because they are so unsure of what to do and where to be,” she said. “It pushes the community into a sense of panic.”
The agency released information in 10 languages for immigrants to know their rights if ICE agents come to the door.
Denver police have announced that the agency does not coordinate with ICE on deportation roundups.
“The Denver Police Department does not assist ICE with immigration enforcement actions,” an email from the department said. “If they request assistance due to an emergency, we will respond just like we do when anyone asks for help.”
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a statement: “We want to reiterate that Denver stands with our immigrant and refugee families, that we do not support family separation or the roundup of immigrant families to spread fear in our community.
“Denver will always stand with families fleeing violence and do whatever we can to prevent the inhumane practice of family separation. We are an inclusive, compassionate and welcoming city and the threats of this White House, which are only a distraction from its failures, will never weaken our resolve,” he said.
In Aurora, Colo., home to the state’s largest immigrant community, Police Chief Nick Metz said in a statement, “Aurora Police Officers DO NOT have the authority to detain a person based on their immigration status.
“They also DO NOT have the authority to investigate or enforce federal immigration laws. They do not and will not ask a person about their immigration status. It is not our practice to report to other agencies who we speak with or what their immigration status is for being in this country or in our city.”
Denver ICE spokeswoman Alethea Smock said in a statement that the agency did not release information about planned actions ahead of time to help ensure the safety of its agents.
“ICE does not conduct raids. ICE performs daily, targeted immigration enforcement operations, which maintain the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and also help improve public safety by removing criminal aliens from local communities,” she said.
“Many of these reports [of planned raids] are baseless rumors,” she said in an email. In an interview, Smock said the agency gave priority to “arresting criminals,” but she would neither confirm nor deny that ICE was looking for immigrants in the Denver area who had no criminal conviction but had missed a court date.
In California, immigration raids are not new, and neither are efforts to help people prepare themselves in the event of a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Benjamin Prado, sub-secretary for Unión del Barrio, a volunteer-run political organization that advocates for human rights, said his group has organized community patrols looking for ICE raids in different neighborhoods in San Diego County for more than 20 years.
Back in the 1990s, the group coordinated community patrols dealing with police brutality issues and immigration raids. The patrols continued in the early 2000s to also deal with public transportation raids, and again in recent years in response to continued ICE raids.
“It consists of being proactive, keeping an eye on our neighborhoods, looking out for vehicles that ICE uses, unmarked, no license plates and really tinted windows. Our goal is to keep families from being separated. It’s a preventative effort. It’s not one where we have to wait for the raids to happen, ” Prado said.
He said much of the group’s work happens ahead of raids. Residents are involved and often contact the organization if they suspect ICE agents are nearby. They also organize community walks through neighborhoods, as well as placing community posters throughout different communities with phone numbers for resident to call with questions or information.
Several non-profit organizations also have led “Know Your Rights,” workshops, including the San Diego chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, where Prado also works as program coordinator of the group’s U.S./Mexico program.
The workshops are provided to students and community groups, as well as to different places of worship. The conversations include advice on what people should do if ICE shows up at homes and how to organize a plan if detained, especially if there are children involved who might be at school during a raid at the home.
“What we’ve been doing here is what we’ve been doing for a long time. It’s a basic way of letting people know what their basic constitutional rights are, what strategies to use to defend those rights,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S./Mexico program.
Earlier this month, the San Diego Rapid Response Network, an interconnected system of organizations, responded to Trump’s announcement of the immigration raids by calling them “cruel and inhumane actions.”