The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was definitely not spreading the love during the pre-Valentine’s Day week when it conducted nationwide deportation raids.
During a weeklong operation more than 680 people who were believed to be in the country illegally were arrested and deported, including 161 from the Los Angeles area, according to a statement by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. These unexpected raids have caused extreme anxiety amongst several immigrant communities especially in those with large Latino populations like Wilmington, after the majority of deportations were of Mexican and Central American nationals.
“We have not encountered a great danger in Wilmington yet, but when we do, we will make sure to support our residents,” said Fernando Navarrete, I Heart Wilmington Program Coordinator at SBCC Thrive LA. “We are maintaining a good relationship with local police force, but ICE is a separate entity.”
Although, John Kelly’s statement says the raids are “consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out,” daily by ICE agents, they follow after President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of people in the U.S. illegally who Trump describes as convicted criminal aliens. According to Kelly’s own statement, 25% of the arrests made were people that do not fit that category. Under the Obama administration, crimes of entry, were of the lowest priority, and the focus was on potential terrorist threats and gang activity. Under the Trump administration, all illegal immigrants are a priority for deportation.
In response, human rights advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have launched a campaign to help undocumented immigrants. The ACLU posted two infographics on their Facebook page and on its website listing several tips of how to protect yourself if ICE comes knocking on your door.
Among the advisements:
- Keep the door shut, keep calm and remember, “You have rights.”
- Request an interpreter, if needed.
- Don’t let them in without a warrant that’s signed by a judge, and request they show it “through a window or slipped under the door.”
The tip sheet then goes on to outline how to resist, by clarifying that warrants that aren’t signed by judges are invalid and grounds for refusing the agents entry.
SBCC Thrive LA also has a legal workshop every week hosted by one of its student groups where they have discussed the recent travel ban and will also talk about the recent deportation raids. They provide “Know Your Rights” cards as well as other information to their group members and have an attorney at SBCC that provides legal assistance.
“We contact our members by phone when we hear something urgent, for example this weekend we contacted our I Heart San Fernando Valley members on the [police] checkpoints,” added Navarrete. “As a DREAMer, this issue is personal to me… I will do anything in my power to help our community if any injustice is done without the right to legal processing.”
The Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) who operate the Harbor City Community Job Center in Wilmington told the Wilmington Wire they had not had members to date that have directly been impacted by the recent raids. However, they did tell us that immigration executive orders and others have created an atmosphere of fear and increased vigilance.
“Our work in connecting workers and employers, in the Wilmington and Harbor area, continues,” said Maegan Ortiz, Executive Director at IDESCA. “We don’t ask members who come to the Harbor City Community Job Center their immigration status. It is our duty to ensure that all jobs out of the center are ones with just wages and dignified working conditions.”
The center also offers referrals to legal, housing and other services to all members of the Wilmington community.
Several local immigrant rights and labor union advocates are organizing an Immigration March this Saturday, February 18 in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square, with other marches expected to happen in Long Beach and other nearby communities.