Immigration raids, shady enforcement practices, threaten New Yorkers

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Yesterday immigrants, both legal and undocumented, went on strike around the U.S., underscoring their contribution to the workforce and the country. Some McDonalds shut down. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, where Hillary Clinton was valedictorian in 1969 removed every piece of art created or donated by an immigrant from its halls, leaving many spots bare.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to defy state officials from red and blue states alike in an immigration sweep, the largest since Trump took office and one that many advocate groups are saying is more significant that what they’ve seen in the recent past. According to a report from immigration advocacy organization New York Immigration Coalition, 40 were arrested by ICE agents across the New York area in a five day span, and 600 across the country.

According to The Nation,  “One hundred and sixty immigrants were arrested in the Los Angeles area; some 200 undocumented immigrants were arrested in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina this past week….Another 200 people were arrested throughout the Midwest: in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.”

ICE claims that said raids are, as a spokeswoman told radio station WNYC, “ not unusual for a week long operation’,” and that  “95 percent of them had criminal records.’”ICE spokeswoman Rachel Yong Yow told the Nation on

New York Immigration Coalition spokeswoman Thanu Yakupitiyage believes ICE is exaggerating the number of those arrested with previous criminal records. As she explained in an email to Brooklyn Based, “They aren’t “raids” necessarily–but they are targeted enforcement pick-ups by ICE. If you read the memo [a leaked memo NYIC obtained], you’ll see that the way ICE justifies it is as operations targeting people with “criminal convictions.” However, people beyond those with convictions have also been swept up in some of the arrests.”

According to a call on Feb. 11 with immigration advocacy organization Make the Road New York, advocates believe that “ICE is doubling down on its war on immigrant communities.”

Five of the 40 New York City arrests were on Staten Island, and disturbingly these incidents included two home invasions where agents identified themselves as police and did not provide warrants.

Carlos Vargas, a legal services staff member at Make the Road told reporters on the call that those affected on Staten Island were “all males, some have citizen children. The children were woken up because of the noise at the door.” In another case, “one hardworking father, heading to work at 5:30 in the morning was approached by two plainclothes officers asking for his ID and they should him a few pictures of people they were looking for. Once he gave him his ID, they identified themselves as ICE, he was detained and arrested.”

In the other home invasion, “ICE agents showed the family 10+ pictures of people they were looking for,” said Theo Oshiro, Make the Road deputy director. “When they didn’t ID the person, they left, came back 20 minutes later, and detained anyway.”

In yet another case, a man was detained outside a court house. A van pulled up, and officers asked for a man’s ID, and once he gave his ID, he was detained. They only identified themselves as ICE after they saw his ID.

This lack of identification or showing a warrant is a common practice for ICE, both in the latest round of 600 arrests, and prior to the Trump administration, according to advocates and organizers. Even when agents do produce a warrant, according to Natalia Aristizabal, a lead organizer for Make the Road, they’re often fake. She explained, “ICE agents sometimes like to show a fake warrant, which we have seen frequently. A warrant should only be signed by a judge, not by an immigration officer.” Making that distinction in the moment that one is being detained seems next to impossible, though.

Organizers could not offer many personal details about those detained, other than to say that all five were male, and at least two were arrested in front of their children. Unlike Guadalupe “Lupita” Garcia de Rayos, a 35-year-old undocumented Arizona resident, who lived in the US for 21 years before being deported after a routine check in with ICE officers, the Staten Island detainees, all of Mexican origin, have yet to face deportation.

Other activists have noted that this behavior did not first occur post Trump that the deportation wheels were set in motion by President Obama, who deported 2.5 million people between 2009 and 2016. In addition, many of the tactics used by ICE officials, including claiming to be police and not immigration officials, and not showing warrants, have been common for decades. Still, Aristizabal believes that there’s been a ramp-up in activity, that the actions in New York are “consistent with what we’ve seen as a surge of ICE activity reported in the past week all across the country.”

Make the Road praised New York State representatives Nydia Velazquez and Jerry Nadler for their work in releasing the first two men detained at JFK in the earliest hours of Trump’s executive order declaring a travel ban on visitors and green card holders from seven Muslim-majority coutnries. They also encouraged New Yorkers to ask their state senators to support the New York Liberty Act, and New York’s own version of the DREAM Act, which together would make New York a sanctuary state, limit the powers of the state government to questions New Yorkers about their immigration status, and, for the DREAM act, expand educational opportunities to children of undocumented immigrants. Both bills passed the New York State Assembly but face large hurdles in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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