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Excerpt: "Fear and panic have gripped America's immigrant community as reports circulate that federal agents have become newly aggressive under President Trump, who campaigned for office with a vow to create a 'deportation force.'"

A Feb. 7 photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows foreign nationals being arrested this week during a targeted enforcement operation conducted in Los Angeles. (photo: Charles Reed/US ICE/AP)
A Feb. 7 photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows foreign nationals being arrested this week during a targeted enforcement operation conducted in Los Angeles. (photo: Charles Reed/US ICE/AP)

ALSO SEE: Republican Green-Card Holder Who Voted Illegally in Texas Gets 8 Years in Prison

Immigrant Community on High Alert, Fearing Trump's 'Deportation Force'

By Janell Ross, Aaron C. Davis and Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post

12 February 17


ear and panic have gripped America’s immigrant community as reports circulate that federal agents have become newly aggressive under President Trump, who campaigned for office with a vow to create a “deportation force.”

Federal officials insist they have not made fundamental changes in enforcement actions, and they deny stopping people randomly at checkpoints or conducting “sweeps” of locations where undocumented immigrants are common.

But anxiety among immigrants spiked last week after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency conducted a series of enforcement actions in large metropolitan areas, detaining hundreds of people in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and other cities.

Amnesty International USA released a statement Saturday saying reports of the enforcement actions “raise grave human rights concerns.” Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded an immediate meeting with Thomas D. Homan, the acting head of ICE.

“These raids have struck fear in the hearts of the immigrant community as many fear that President Trump’s promised ‘deportation force’ is now in full-swing,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Homan.

What’s certain is that even if ICE and other officials say this is business as usual, many immigrants find more persuasive the words and actions of Trump, whose political rise was propelled by anti-immigrant rhetoric, a vow to build a wall on the Mexican border and the promise to deport 3 million criminal immigrants.

On Jan. 25, five days after taking the oath of office, he issued an executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” Media attention focused on Trump’s call for an end to federal funds for “sanctuary cities,” which do not automatically hand over illegal immigrants who come to the attention of local law enforcement.

But the order also expanded the list of deportation priorities to include any noncitizen who is charged with a criminal offense of any kind, or who is suspected of committing criminal acts or being dishonest with immigration officials. The order gives broader leeway to ICE officers in deciding whether someone poses “a risk to public safety.”

For immigrant rights activists, the rules of engagement have clearly changed.

“Donald Trump has effectively created a way to deport individuals who have been accused, charged or convicted of anything from murder to jaywalking,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Fear of being detained or deported could lead many people to avoid going to work, school or public places in coming days, Salas said. She noted that one person detained by ICE last week had been at his job in a Target store.

“ICE wants us to believe they have removed a bunch of felons who were just plotting their next crime,” Salas said. “We know that ICE picked up some collaterals, people who happened to be nearby when officers arrived looking for someone else, and we think what we’ve just witnessed is how an emboldened ICE will operate.”

Several undocumented Los Angeles residents told The Washington Post that they did not want to be identified because they fear the Trump administration could use newspaper coverage to craft a list of deportation targets.

Under policies crafted during President Barack Obama’s second term, priority deportees included people who had been convicted of murder and other violent crimes as well as certain drug offenses and gang involvement. Obama’s policies called on ICE officials to avoid detaining, whenever possible, nursing mothers and those with serious medical conditions.

ICE last week has put out messages on social media suggesting that the enforcement actions were not part of a major crackdown ordered by Trump. “ICE immigration enforcement actions target specific individuals according to the laws passed by Congress,” reads a tweet posted Thursday by ICE.

ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez wrote in an email to The Washington Post: “ICE does not use checkpoints, nor do we use sweeping raids. We use targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals to make these arrests.”

Immigration rights activists are hoping to call attention to the actions of ICE while at the same time preventing full-scale panic among people who may be avoiding going to work or riding buses out of fear of being detained.

“We’re not trying to sow hysteria here, so we’re not reporting rumors,” said Elizabeth Alex, a regional field director in Baltimore County for CASA, an immigrant advocacy group. “But it is fair to say we are seeing new tactics across the county.”

She said ICE agents detained a handful of people after they exited the county courthouse in Towson, Md. In one incident, on Monday, an undocumented immigrant who had gone to the courthouse to pay a ticket for driving on a suspended license was taken into custody by federal agents as he left, she said.

She added that CASA has documented cases of illegal immigrants being taken into custody in recent weeks after they showed up for check-in meetings with parole and probation officers in the county.

In Montgomery County, considered a sanctuary jurisdiction, lawmakers and dozens of advocates for the state’s immigrant population fanned out Friday evening and Saturday morning after unfounded rumors circulated on Facebook that a public bus had been raided by federal immigration officers. As the rumor went, officers boarded a bus in the Wheaton area, home to a sizable chunk of the Washington area’s Salvadoran community, and began removing riders who could not produce identification.

ICE spokeswoman Rodriguez denied that, and local officials said they found no evidence to back up the rumor, either. Similar unfounded rumors popped up elsewhere in the country, including Portland, Ore., and Austin.

The epicenter for the enforcement actions in the Washington region last week appeared to be a maze of garden apartments tucked inside the Beltway in Annandale, Va., where more than a thousand Hispanic residents live in apartments starting at $1,200 a month. Immigration attorneys said federal officers had staked out the Fairmont Gardens apartment complex at least twice last week, arresting men as they left for work Tuesday and Thursday morning.

“I fear we’re going back to the bad days under [former president George W.] Bush — or worse — when immigration officers were given quotas for arrests and whether they found their person or not, they filled up the van to meet the quota,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director for the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program.

Virginia state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax), held a town hall meeting Saturday morning in Mount Vernon where more than 200 constituents showed up. Surovell discussed pictures he had been sent of federal immigration officers on Friday detaining a man about two miles away in the parking lot of an Aldi grocery store along Route 1.

He said he has heard that the surge in enforcement is scaring schoolchildren, who may avoid going to school on Monday. “They don’t know if their parents are going to be taken away,” Surovell said.

Dozens of community organizers held a telephone conference Saturday afternoon to discuss strategy, with one lawyer saying in Spanish that immigrants need to take steps to protect themselves.

“Do not open the door to your home without seeing a warrant,” he said. “Do not drive a car with broken lights, and do not drive at all at night.” your social media marketing partner


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+1 # elizabethblock 2017-02-12 09:45
To neighbors of immigrants: What would you do if your neighbor were Anne Frank?
+1 # CDMR 2017-02-12 10:30
The "immigrant community" was on high alert during the Obama years when 2 million people were deported. Why was the WaPo not on high alert then.

The Obama administration deported about 700 people a day -- that's every day, 7 days a week. In order to deport this many, three times that number had to be arrested and placed in immigration detention camps, sometimes for longer than a year.

I think there should be a general amnesty for anyone who has lived and worked in the US for more than 1 year. Just give them a "green card" and allow them to work as "permanent residents." They will retain their citizenship and passport from their home nation. After 6 years with a green card, they can apply for citizenship under the current rules, if they wish.

Problem solved. They are here anyway, so just give them a green card.

The WaPo is not helpful. Obama started the immigrant witch hunt.
0 # Skyelav 2017-02-12 12:01
# elizabethblock 2017-02-12 09:45
To neighbors of immigrants: What would you do if your neighbor were Anne Frank?That's not the issue. We aren't ethnic-cleansin g.CMDR is right, and we all know Wa Po is a voice for the Corporatist Oligarchy. THe issue should be looked at through history. We have always, more or less, in my memory anyway, opened the borders from the Oval, to deal with un employment, vs full employment. The more of one we have the more illegals we have to have and so on. Ask the Border P. where their orders have come from. Well, game is up. Trump thinks he can fix the economy and the USA through closing borders, bringing jobs back, lowering taxes for the rich so they will throw all their cash at opening or improving new businesses. I wonder how happy we will be if lettuce goes up to $ten a head? This is the balancing act we've been playing with our friends from Mexico all in collusion, I am afraid, with their own government. (We did promise to build some factories down there, didn't we... Hmmmmmm
+1 # kyzipster 2017-02-12 12:32
Bill Moyers did an excellent program on the failure of the Kennedy/McCain immigration reform bill during the Bush years. A bill that Bush had promised to sign, giving millions of undocumented workers legal status and a path to citizenship. This is one of the reasons Bush got over 40% of the Hispanic vote, a demographic that is expected to surpass the African American vote.

Moyers proved, imo, that Rush Limbaugh and those like him in the right-wing media derailed the Bill. Firing up the GOP base with lies and half truths, who pressured Congress to withdraw support. Rush Limbaugh was more powerful than a sitting Republican president. And now this base of voters gave us Trump. He didn't come out of nowhere, he is a creation of racist and xenophobic right-wing propaganda.

I don't know how innocent or guilty Obama is but I do believe there is a false equivalence when saying Obama did it too or that he started this witch hunt. We're seeing a very different atmosphere today, the White House threatening sanctuary cities, etc. Plenty of articles about the differences. Even the numbers of deportation under Obama are inaccurate. I won't copy and paste what I've read, it's easy enough to look it up.

The difference between the two parties are significant today, one party playing to their anti-immigrant base, the other much more willing to vote for amnesty and allowing refugees entry if we lived in a more sane country.
0 # Skyelav 2017-02-12 17:04
kyzipster, “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools,” Pence said.
I still maintain that heretofore, immigration from especially Mexico, was economy based, and that this is simply becoming a right vs left talking point. It's all moot and controls prices of goods and services.
0 # kyzipster 2017-02-13 18:23
I think the history of the Kennedy/McCain bill and bipartisan support for amnesty during the Bush years, derailed by what we now call the Tea Party element of the GOP base validates my point. Yes, economics plays a role for sure and I believe that bill addressed some of those issues, fining businesses for using undocumented workers, etc.

This issue has devolved to the point that this anti-immigrant sector of the population has grown under the GOP flag and gave us Trump. I don't buy that 'both sides are exactly the same' on every single issue.

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