The prospect of nationwide immigration raids starting this weekend has sown fear in the immigrant communities of the San Francisco Bay Area and added a new urgency to the efforts of local defenders of the defense of undocumented migrants in the region.
The activists set up a network of telephone lines to confirm the information on searches and prepared a group of volunteer lawyers to assist the detainees in court, for what could be the largest coordinated operation of detention of immigrants since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
"We want to react with power, not with panic," said Sandy Valenciano, 26, an immigrant rights activist in Oakland, undocumented.
The Trump administration plans to launch a national immigration control operation, going ahead with the plans announced – then postponed – by Trump at the end of last month due to objections from congressional leaders and department officials of Internal Security.
Although preparations for the raids still seem to be changing, many news outlets announced that the operation would begin Sunday and will target at least 2,000 immigrants sentenced to a final deportation order, as well as anyone else. "Collateral" without documents discovered. In the process.
At least 10 cities should be targeted, including San Francisco. A spokesman for the ICE office in San Francisco refused to confirm whether or not raids would take place, but the office said it was directing law enforcement and removal operations in the Bay Area, and not only in the city.
Activists monitoring CIE activity said they have already witnessed a surge in law enforcement actions in the San Francisco Bay Area since last weekend, especially in Contra Costa counties. and Santa Clara.
"It seems to us that their operation has already begun, one way or another, here in northern California," said Hamid Yazdan Panah, a lawyer at the San Francisco Bar, who coordinates Free legal assistance for locally detained immigrants.
Local officials have long been laying the groundwork for educating undocumented communities to respond to raids on the ice and organizing legal assistance.
"We know this is happening," said Zulma Maciel, director of immigration affairs for the city of San Jose. "This job was to prepare moments like this."
The main advice that local officials and immigrant rights advocates have given to undocumented families is simple: do not open your door. ICE agents are not allowed to forcibly enter homes or businesses without a warrant signed by a judge.
Activist groups have also urged undocumented migrants to ensure that a friend or family member takes a video recording when they are detained, in order to preserve the evidence of potential violations of their rights. Many groups have distributed "red cards", small cards printed in different languages that immigrants can keep in their wallets and present to ICE agents so that they declare their refusal to answer questions or to allow searches.
The most comprehensive preparation in the region has been the establishment of rapid telephone lines, created by non-profit organizations to collect information on the activities of the ICE and deploy lawyers to help detainees. People who see ICE agents in their neighborhood can dial a phone number to report their location. The organizers then send volunteers to the site to confirm the organization of raids, document what is happening and, if necessary, send a lawyer to meet the detainees in local detention centers. There are eight emergency phone lines in the Bay Area, some of which have recruited extra volunteers to be on call this weekend.
Lawyers are worried about one of the problems: the ICE headquarters in San Francisco is in a closed federal building on Sunday and, in the past, lawyers were not allowed to enter the interior to provide legal assistance to inmates on weekends. A group of pro bono lawyers went to the office Thursday to ask to be allowed to meet anyone detained on Sunday, but their applications were denied, Panah said.
Groups opposed to the raids argue that many of the allegedly targeted persons were expelled without being present in court. It seems that many have not been informed of court proceedings in immigration courts, said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Institute's non-political migration policy. Legal assistance can help migrants avoid or delay deportations, but US immigration courts do not require legal representation of those who are subject to removal proceedings.
The alleged absence of notification is at the center of a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York-based advocacy project for asylum seekers and two other groups against federal government officials to stop deportations families and children who have been deported without being in court for the order since May 2014. Groups want a court order requiring these children and their families to have access to their immigration records, followed by of a hearing before an immigration judge to determine whether their removal orders should be rescinded.
At the same time, municipal leaders and police services in the San Francisco Bay Area emphasized that local law enforcement agencies do not enforce immigration law and are prohibited from doing so. do so under California's "State Sanctuary" policy.
"Know that you are in a community where you are supported, respected and appreciated," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Thursday in a statement, inviting residents of the city to contact the service. Alameda County Telephone Support.
If undocumented migrants are afraid to interact with local authorities, this would make them less likely to report crimes and assist in police investigations, officials said. There is also concern that increased evictions may lead to increased separation of children (US citizens) from undocumented immigrants from their parents.
"It scares us with terror," said Carolina Martin Ramos, director of programs and advocacy at the Oakland Nonprofit Law Center, at the Raza Legal Law Center.
But local GOP officials have criticized the governments of the San Francisco Bay Area for spending public resources to help undocumented immigrants avoid eviction.
"It's hard to understand why leaders such as Mayor Schaaf think, in their shame, that they have to decide how these laws should be enforced," said Hugh Bussell, president of the Alameda County Republican Party. . "They were people who had been remanded in custody, but who nevertheless stayed in the country. Enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government. "
Immigration experts have noted that ICE may have trouble conducting widespread raids in a limited amount of time. The agency makes most of its arrests in prisons and jails, after the arrest or conviction of undocumented for crimes. He does much less arrests "in general" of people in the communities – in 2017, the agency made less than 14,000 of these detentions, Pierce said.
"The idea that they may make 2,000 next week is very ambitious, especially given the current tensions with the crisis on the southern border," she said.
Whether or not the raids succeed in bringing the targeted individuals together, the imminent and persistent threat of these actions could have long-term repercussions on immigrant communities.
"Communities are really damaged," said Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law. "I'm not saying that everyone stays at home, but people are afraid to go out of their homes, afraid to go to work, afraid to go to school, afraid of" 39 go to the doctor, afraid to go to DMV. "
The concern over the raids has had a negative impact on immigrant families such as Valenciano. She is protected from evictions under the DACA program, but her parents – undocumented immigrants from Mexico who have been living in the United States for more than 25 years – do not. Since Trump wrote for the first time last month on upcoming raids, she took the time to sit down with them and make sure they do not know how to open their doors, keep their red cards in their wallet and keep their stored phone number in case an agent shows up. at their house.
"More than anything, it's really exhausting to always think that this could happen today," she said, "not just for us, but for someone we love."