Immigration authorities have begun conducting raids, a senior administration official said Sunday, in an operation expected to target about 2,000 undocumented immigrants ordered by courts to be removed from the country.
The raids, which will focus on recent arrivals to the country, are slated for Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco, a senior immigration official said. New Orleans is also on the list, but the city tweeted last week that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would suspend operations through the weekend in areas hit by Tropical Storm Barry, which weakened to a tropical depression Sunday.
As of early Sunday evening, there weren’t any confirmed reports of migrants being apprehended in Baltimore, Chicago or New York, immigrant advocacy groups in those cities told CNN.
“For the most part, it’s quiet,” Cara Yi, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said. “We’ve been dispatching rapid response teams out to meet with people who have reported ICE activity over our hotline. None have been confirmed as of yet.”
Most of the reports were about sightings of government vehicles, Yi said, but advocates had confirmed they were not ICE.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New York said earlier on Twitter that it had received “some reports of ICE at subway stations, but none have been substantiated.”
Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli took issue with referring to the targets of the raids as undocumented.
“They’re not undocumented. They’ve got a court order on a piece of paper – federal order – that says they’ve gotten due process, and (there are) over a million people with removal orders. That’s the pool that ICE is drawing from,” he told CNN.
ICE will not comment on operational details of the raids, Cuccinelli said, adding that the priority will be apprehending violent criminals and aggravated felons. ICE agents are not “utilizing” allegations of crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor, as cause for arrest in the raids, he said.
Asked if children would be separated from their parents, Cuccinelli said that information constituted an operational detail. But he did say families are among the 1 million people facing removal orders.
News of the raids has left many undocumented immigrants frightened. They’ve been stocking up on groceries and making plans to stay in their homes with the lights off and the blinds down. Some are staying home from work. Others are posting signs inside their homes reminding them what to do if ICE agents show up. Unsure of where to turn, they’re flooding hotlines with calls.
Immigrants have been hunkering down
In some cities, local governments and advocacy groups were assisting the immigrants. Supporters in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen were posting “know your rights” fliers and encouraging residents to post the fliers, which say, “The family that resides in this home knows their legal rights,” at their homes.
Advocates with the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights in Atlanta on Sunday were at a popular Latino shopping center, handing out fliers that read, “ICE free zone.”
The fliers also asked immigration authorities to present a signed warrant if they wanted to come inside, adding “This is OUR Constitutional Right!”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said Sunday that immigration law experts would be on hand at her office in Houston to provide legal resources to individuals looking for information regarding the raids, which she called “draconian.”