TUCSON — A series of immigration raids is expected to begin as early as Sunday in several major American cities, according to President Donald Trump.
It’s part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration and the plans have sown fear in migrant communities around the United States.
The cities targeted are Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. All of these cities were part of a one-year program that allowed the Department of Justice to fast-track the adjudication of cases through the normally-sluggish immigration court system.
Trump initially claimed that “millions” of immigrants would be deported when he stunned immigration officials in mid-June by announcing the raids ahead of time, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have said the raids would be smaller in scope.
In anticipation of the expected immigration raids, here are answers to five key questions about what to expect.
Who will be targeted?
The roundups are expected to target about 2,000 migrants, most of whom have been ordered deported, according to Claudia Valenzuela with the American Immigration Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy organization.
The primary focus is on individuals who have received standing deportation orders after they failed to show up to their court hearings. Immigration judges ordered that they be deported “in absentia.”
Valenzuela said a concern is that, in many instances, the families did not receive court notices, were summoned for non-existent dates, or simply didn’t know how to navigate the complex U.S. immigration system.
Another big concern, she said, is the possibility of “collateral arrests.”
If immigration authorities come across “others in the vicinity that maybe aren’t the targets for arrest, maybe aren’t the subjects of an outstanding removal order, but ICE agents determine they are not here lawfully, that could result in those individuals being apprehended,” Valenzuela said.
What happens after they are detained?
After ICE officers detains someone, what happens next depends on whether the individual has a deportation order or not.
Ruben Reyes, a board member with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said migrants who have final deportation orders have little recourse.
“They generally are picked up, they get taken to central processing, and then from central processing their ID is verified, their history is verified, their documents are obtained through the consulate so they can be repatriated,” he said.
However, if someone doesn’t have a deportation order, the person is placed into deportation proceedings, Valenzuela said.
Such individuals could be held in immigration detention or released on bond while a judge determines if they should be deported.
Can they be deported right away?
Deportations from the United States depend on the home countries of the migrants.
Under binational agreements, Reyes said, deportees from Mexico and Canada can be removed as quickly as the same day of their arrest. Mexican migrants are sent back to one of 11 repatriation points along the U.S.-Mexico border or flown to Mexico City.
The process is different for countries that don’t share a border with the United States.
The 2,000 targeted migrants likely come mostly from Central American countries, which makes it more challenging to deport them quickly, Valenzuela said. ICE has up to three months to deport someone; on average, it takes one to two months.
In these cases, it’s likely the U.S. government will try to move much more quickly, she added.
“I definitely think that the administration is aware that citizens of this country are outraged, that … the legal community is ready to step up and help these families,” Valenzuela said. “And one of their biggest tools is rapid deportation. I’m sure there have been discussions or plans to undertake these deportations as quickly as possible.”
What about the children?
In the past, immigration sweeps largely have focused on adult individuals or on businesses, but the raids expected to begin Sunday will include children who traveled with family members to the United States.
“To proactively go to homes to arrest children, we’ve never seen it in this way,” Valenzuela said. “And as a policy and as an operation, we’ve never seen it.”
Reyes also expressed concern for mixed-status families and raised questions about what would happen to U.S.-born children if their parents are detained.
Based on what has happened in previous raids and sweeps, he encouraged families to plan so that their children and any property they own are protected.
“All of these are issues that I believe should be discussed in a very honest way so that we can avoid what I think are going to be a lot of these secondary consequences of these enforcement operations,” he said.
Is there any last-minute recourse for migrants?
Individuals with deportation orders don’t have a right to go before court, Valenzuela said.
Their only recourse is to reopen the deportation order, which means asking the court to step in and stop the deportation while the motion is pending.
But under the way the system is currently set up, Valenzuela added, once there’s a deportation order, it’s difficult to get a court to hear the case.
“What ends up happening is if your deportation is not stopped, the courts don’t rule in time and … you can be deported before your motion is reopened and even decided,” Valenzuela said.
Reyes said that as the expected raids play out across the U.S., attorneys with the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be monitoring the situation and looking for any red flags in the process.
“We’re going to be on the lookout for violations of due process,” he said. “Are they coming in and claiming that they have an order of arrest signed by a judge in their jurisdiction that will allow them to go in? Are they knocking down doors? Are they looking for collateral damage?”
While there may be little that can be done after a migrant with a deportation order is arrested, immigration advocates agree that consulting or retaining an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of a case.
Reyes urged migrants to seek legal advice beforehand to understand where their immigration cases stand and if they are eligible for any other type of relief of visa.
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