Nationwide immigration raids aimed at rounding up 2,000 illegal immigrants for possible deportation got off to a low-key, almost invisible start Sunday.
Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Matt Albence said "We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge."
He gave no information where arrests are being made and how many people have been detained so far.
But fears among immigrant communities in big cities of black helmeted agents kicking down doors and shouting orders have not materialized.
All was reported quiet in such places as Miami, New York, Atlanta, and Baltimore, where churches and lawyers were standing by offering sanctuary and ready to help anyone who suspects they are about to be detained. They have told immigrants not to open their doors to agents unless a warrant is produced.
They are also telling anyone arrested not to say anything or sign anything unless a lawyer is present.
"Immigrant and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified and terrorized ways," Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Mary Bauer says. She added that frightening people is the "point of the whole operation whether enforcement actions take place or not."
Most mayors of these big cities are Democrats and have instructed local authorities to resist cooperating with federal immigration officials.
New York Mayor and presidential candidate Bill DeBlasio calls the immigration raids a "political act."
But acting head of the Customs and Border Protection agency, Mark Morgan, said this is about enforcing the law.
"Those individuals who remain here illegally, especially those who have received due process more than any other nation in the world would provide someone that came here illegally, to include those with final orders, that there are consequences to those what remain here illegally," he fold Fox television Sunday.
New York City had no new reports of ICE raids as of early Sunday evening, said Anu Joshi, the New York Immigration Coalition's senior director of immigrant rights policy, in USA Today.
That didn't stop a crowd of more than 100 community organizers, immigrants, elected officials and others from holding an immigration rally and march in nearly 90-degree temperatures in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of New York City's Queens borough � one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse areas in the nation. March organizers with bullhorns led chants of Abolish ICE, USAToday reported
And I'm here as part of Queens Neighborhoods United, said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez. We're a grassroots group of folks from Jackson Heights Elmhurst and Corona, who fight displacement in our communities that comes in any form from gentrification to criminalization to immigration. We're here today to say abolish ICE. That should not exist in any way, shape or form. We're here to take back our streets and to let everybody know that our communities are safe here.
U.S. President Donald Trump made the unusual move of announcing the raids ahead of time. He said he was not concerned the early notice could help some of the targeted immigrants avoid arrest.
Other presidents have ordered illegal immigrants deported, including Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. But those orders generally targeted those who came here illegally and committed crimes.
ICE agents say they are also mostly targeting immigrants who are considered dangerous.
But immigration advocates say the raids could wind up separating families and arresting those who pose no danger.
Source: Voice of America