Immigrant rights advocates piece together details on recent sweeps with little official information

February 13, 2017
Free Speech Radio News

Immigration police have arrested at least 600 people in raids in about a dozen states, including in so-called sanctuary cities, during the past week, in what officials call ‘routine enforcement actions.’ The full scope of the sweeps is unclear, and advocates for undocumented immigrants say they may be much broader than currently known. But following President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, many fear the dragnet is now much more widely cast. 

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the authority behind the detentions, has repeatedly stated that the arrests are routine, targeted enforcement, but organizations with close ties to immigrant communities say this is clearly not the case.

Cristina Parker is immigration projects coordinator with Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas – a city where dozens of undocumented people have been picked up in recent days.

“I think we know that what happened over this past weekend and the end of last week here in Austin was not routine at all. One of the ways we can really gauge that is the fact that we run a deportation crisis hotline here – we’ll usually hear between one or two calls every one or two days, something like that, and we had hundreds of calls in the past few days,” Parker told FSRN in a telephone interview. “Now, a lot of those were just people calling because they were worried and wanted to know their rights and such information, but many, many of them – at least a dozen – were folks who were calling because they had had a family member picked up. When we combine that with the numbers we hear from the Mexican consulate, that’s how we know it was about 60 to 70 people who were picked up.”

News of the coordinated arrests spread quickly across social media platforms. Parker says her organization began receiving reports early on, but has been cautious to vet the information to avoid panic: “We’ve received tons and tons of reports about, you know, ‘I see this’ or ‘I see that happening.’ We usually ask folks when they’re reporting that to us to snap a picture and send that to us. The reason we do that is because we’ve had a lot of pranks; unfortunately, our information went out on some white supremacist websites and so they were definitely sending some false leads to us. So we ask people to snap a picture, and that’s actually how we were able to really early on confirm this.”

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In his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on internal enforcement of immigration laws. He billed it as a get tough strategy to go after quote ‘criminal aliens’. However, the order isn’t specific about what kind of crime constitutes a priority for deportation and those targeted for removal don’t have to be convicted – only charged.

Further, the order calls for officials to detain anyone suspected of violating any law, including Federal immigration law – which could make anyone who has crossed the border without authorization subject to arrest.