Protesters around the country rallied against planned ICE raids this weekend as mayors renewed pledges to block ICE access to local law enforcement resources. The agency plans to sweep 10 cities on Sunday in an effort to detain 2,000 immigrants who have been issued final orders of removal.
The raids were originally scheduled for June at President Donald Trump’s request; however, the president postponed them shortly before they were set to begin to give Congress time to craft immigration reform legislation. Trump threatened to move forward with the raids if the legislative branch failed to make progress within two weeks.
That deadline has now passed, and ICE officials announced last week that the agency would raid cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco beginning Sunday. Because of Tropical Storm Barry, the raids on New Orleans and Houston will reportedly postponed.
The Trump administration has maintained that the raids are necessary to enforce immigration law; after first announcing the operation, Trump tweeted the raids would target people who “have run from the law and run from the courts.”
Saturday, however, protesters in cities across the US argued the raids are a tool the Trump administration hopes to use to intimidate immigrant communities and target families with children who are themselves US citizens.
“It’s purely psychological,” Robert Suro, a public policy professor at USC, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is yet one more example of how the Trump administration is trying to use fear as an instrument of immigration control. It generates a lot of fear and anxiety but not a lot of control. This has nothing to do with actual enforcement.”
Suro said there are currently 1 million undocumented migrants with deportation orders, which means the 2,000 targeted by ICE amount to just 0.2 percent of those who face deportation.
Trump initially hoped to target more undocumented immigrants; in his initial announcement, he promised “ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
Logistical and operational constraints as well as the recommendations of senior officials like Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan (who reportedly told the president a more limited operation targeting 150 families would be wiser) led to a reduced scope. Also complicating matters was the refusal of many local governments to cooperate with ICE agents. Ahead of Sunday’s raids, many mayors have once again instructed their police departments not to aid ICE agents operating in their cities.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “If you want to come after them, you’re going to have to come through us.”
In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock said not only had he directed his officers to refrain from assisting ICE, but that he has tasked social service employees with watching over any children left without parents because of the raid.
“We’re not going to put children in cages or leave them in inhumane conditions,” Hancock said. “Our job is to help those families as best as we can.”
Mayor Keisha Bottoms of Atlanta said, “Our officers don’t enforce immigration borders. We’ve closed our city detention centers to ICE because we don’t want to be complicit in family separation,” and other mayors, including Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot and New York’s Bill de Blasio have made similar statements.
Citizens of cities affected by the raids also publicly protested the raids. In Denver, around 2,000 protesters gathered for a rally outside a nearby ICE facility on Friday.
A large group has gathered in Denver to protest the migrant detention centers. They plan to march from the Peoria RTD station to the ICE detention center in Aurora #9News pic.twitter.com/JRoD188cIo— Jennifer Meckles (@jennifermeckles) July 13, 2019
“We feel every person has the right to dignity,” protester Jason Hayman told the Denver Post. “We also feel that immigrants are not being given the dignity that they deserve, like everyone else.”
Protesters in Chicago were joined by Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and US Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, who told the crowd, “It’s about damn time we tell this racist president loud and clear: Stop criminalizing desperation.”
Similar protests were also seen in other affected cities, like Los Angeles and New York; citizens of cities not directly targeted by ICE also protested. In Phoenix, protesters blocked streets and chanted “Free those kids!” while marchers in Philadelphia shouted “Shut down ICE!” as they took to the streets Friday.
ICE facilities in places such as Greenfield, Massachusetts also saw protesters gather outside.
Despite these protests and local governments’ refusal to coordinate with ICE, the raids are expected to proceed as planned. Although Trump cancelled the original operation hours before it was set to begin, acting head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli suggested on Wednesday that would be unlikely to happen again — he told reporters the raids were “absolutely going to happen.”