Immigrant communities across the country are reeling in terror from a series of ICE raids.
All throughout last week, federal agents in some of the nation’s largest cities rounded up and arrested undocumented immigrants. The drive began on Monday and ended Friday, with individuals from at least a dozen Latin American countries taken into custody. The raids, which were led by ICE, have begun spreading panic and confusion throughout immigrant communities.
Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, sought to corroborate official claims that the “targeted enforcement actions” were designed specifically to catch criminals. The ICE field director for the Los Angeles area, David Marin, said in a statement that three-quarters of the individuals caught by his office’s operation had felony convictions. A number had histories or allegations leveled against them which ranged in severity from domestic violence to first-degree murder.
“Dangerous criminals who should be deported are being released into our community,” Marin said, defending ICE’s actions as being necessary for maintaining rule of law.
Despite the insistence of Customs and Immigration spokesmen that the raids were meant to deport dangerous and undocumented criminals, some activists have begun to worry they’re a precursor to something sinister. House Democrats have begun inquiries to gather more information about the arrests.
Representative Lou Correa of California sent a letter to immigration officials, asking for ICE to clarify its priorities and planning.
Marin indicated that last week’s operation had been planned months before Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 25th which called for the “detention of undocumented immigrants.”
Nevertheless, rumors have started to circulate about single mothers and young students who had been arrested. The Washington Times ran a story on Thursday about Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who had been taken into custody during a routine meeting with immigration officers. She had lived in the United States since she was 14 years old. Protestors spent hours blocking the van she’d been confined to from leaving an area courthouse, many chanting the slogan, “no papers, no problem.”
“There is a dreadful sense of fear. It’s more than palpable. It’s radiating. People are terrified,” said Pastor Fred Morris of Los Angeles, describing to The Guardian how his predominately Hispanic congregation had reacted to recent news.
Another raid in the city suburbs swept 50-year old Manuel Mosqueda. The house painter was taken away by ICE agents who had showed up to his residence looking for someone else. After asking a handful of questions and determining that Mosqueda was in the United States, they arrested him; Mosqueda has since been sent to Mexico.
Other actions in Virginia have also raised eyebrows and concerns in other parts of the world. The seizure of computers and memory banks from a for-profit university led to extensive press coverage in India, which is where many of the college’s international students are from.
ICE maintains that their raids are simply “business as usual” – a continuation of policies which were implemented under Barack Obama and led to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants being sent back to their countries of birth since 2009. However, that hasn’t stopped many from wondering if the most recent escalation in arrests has ties to Trump’s fiery rhetoric about removing undocumented workers and potential criminals from the country. Bedsheets went up in windows in some immigrant districts as reports of ICE agents walking from door-to-door swirled.
The inquiries launched by left-wing politicians should clear up some of the miscommunication which seems to exist between the media, immigration agencies, and the broader immigrant community.