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Immigrant community braces itself for federal raids

LOS ANGELES — The Trump administration’s highly publicized Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids aimed at immigrants facing deportation did not happen last weekend but could still be possible in the coming days.

Immigration officials were not revealing their plans, indicating it could threaten the safety of their agents and jeopardize their operations.

National news coverage reported that individual Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices were given the discretion to decide when to conduct the sweeps. Officials announced late last week the raids would start Sunday and continue for an indefinite amount of time.

The sweeps targeting an estimated 2,000 people nationwide previously ordered deported from the U.S. were expected in at least 10 cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles. But an apparent handful of low-key raids happened instead.

The Southland’s immigrant communities had been bracing for planned mass arrests by federal authorities even as protests continued and local law enforcement agencies insisted they would not take part in the arrests.

Raids also were anticipated in San Francisco, Denver, Miami, New York, Chicago, Baltimore and Atlanta although similar actions in Houston and New Orleans reportedly were postponed due to Tropical Storm Barry.

Immigration activists held a demonstration July 14 outside the Long Beach home of the region’s acting director for ICE, Thomas Giles, according to ABC7.

The demonstration was peaceful and police were there to monitor the action. The group also demanded the resignation of Giles.

“We wanted to bring attention to this gentleman that we are against the crimes against humanity, the violation of international law that’s occurring at the border and the detention centers,” Maria Estrada told ABC7.

Hundreds of people rallied against President Donald Trump’s promised deportation raids in downtown Los Angeles.

“Everybody knows that every country has a right to secure its borders and enforce its immigration laws,” former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told a crowd during one of the weekend demonstrations. “But we do so consistent with our values.”

ICE spokesman Matt Bourke said the agency “prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

Bourke said 90% of those arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division last year had either a criminal conviction, pending criminal charges or had illegally re-entered the country after previously being removed.

“However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States,” he said.

Deportation operations are not unusual. ICE conducts large-scale operations three or four times a year, averaging 40 to 50 arrests a day, according to the Los Angeles Times. A targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles began July 7 and ended July 11, netting dozens of arrests, the Times reported.

The raids originally were announced in a mid-June Twitter post by the president, but were postponed for two weeks for what he said was a chance for Congress to come up with comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

“They’re going to take criminals out and put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from,” Trump told reporters July 12. “We’re focused on criminals as much as we can.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, echoed that sentiment, saying ICE actions are focused on people who have been ordered out of the country.

“If you have come to this position, you’ve been here years, you’ve gone through the court system, you’ve been found that you have to be deported,” McCarthy said. “You have to follow the rule of law.”

News of the planned raids sparked outrage among immigrant-advocacy groups, saying the move was an effort to spark unrest among undocumented immigrant families. They also contend that while raids may target criminals, other immigrants are often arrested during such actions.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said undocumented immigrants have the right to refuse to open the door if ICE agents show up at their homes.

“If they don’t have a warrant with your name on it, you don’t have to answer,” she said.

Solis issued a statement saying the county “will do everything in its power to ensure that no child regardless of citizenship status will be left  alone or abandoned.”

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore have both insisted that city officers will not assist ICE agents in raids.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was strongly opposed to the raids.

“The presence of undocumented residents in our communities calls for compassion, not threats of deportation and family separation,” Villanueva said.

Los Angeles County is home to 3.5 million immigrants, undocumented and otherwise, according to Solis.

“Our immigrant population makes significant contributions to the economy and diverse culture of our county,” Solis said.

From City News Service