Mass Arrests of California Immigrants

Screen grab of headlines from Bay Area ABC 7 News,

I expected to attend a bail hearing today, for an immigrant detained by ICE. Instead, there’s going to be a rally to protest the arrest of 150 immigrants in Northern California since Sunday. I’m horrified by what I understand about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (still reading up on it). Briefly, from NPR: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and asylum seekers, do not have the right to periodic bond hearings.” Here’s the email I received about the arrests and today’s protest. I’m headed there shortly.  – Eva

Press release from the Power, Not Panic Emergency Response Committee: Major Protest Planned in SF to Denounce ICE Raids

As lawyers mobilize, civil rights groups condemn raids as retaliation, Demand due process and transparency

SAN FRANCISCO  — This evening (Feb.27), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that it had conducted at least 150 arrests in deportation operations across Northern California over the last several days. Local “rapid response” hotlines documented a pattern of psychological intimidation beginning Sunday. For example, ICE agents congregated at food trucks in Napa and reportedly joked about who would be arrested next. In Atwater, ICE agents conducted several arrests simply by racially profiling people who walked into a convenience store.

Advocates caution that ICE has a long track record of deceiving the public about its arrests and call upon the press to question the agency’s claims. Advocates also encourage community members to Know Their Rights.

A broad array of local organizations, coalitions, and networks, informally known as the “Power, not Panic Emergency Response Committee” has come together to denounce ICE’s operation as a profound abuse of power and to mount an emergency response.

  • Groups across the Bay Area will denounce ICE’s operation at a 12:00 PM rally at ICE’s Northern California headquarters at 630 Sansome St. in San Francisco.

  • Dozens of trained attorneys are on standby to assist those who are affected, and to monitor and document abuses, as well as to advocate for due process.

The arrests come amidst an escalating series of retaliatory actions nationwide from ICE. In California, the Trump administration has taken aim at state and local policies which limit law enforcement involvement in painful deportations. These “sanctuary” policies, advanced by a growing movement, help keep families together and limit racial profiling. The operation also comes in the wake of a devastating Supreme Court ruling today which allows the federal government to indefinitely detain immigrants without the due process that every person deserves.

The following is a statement prepared in advance of ICE’s threatened operation, issued by the organizations named below:

As community, civil rights, and legal organizations, we stand together to demand an immediate halt to politically motivated abuses of power.

In these situations, it is vital to uncover the truth. We ask that our elected officials vigorously scrutinize ICE’s claims about the arrests it makes. All too often, from Santa Cruz to Texas, ICE’s claims have later been proven false.

Here in Northern California, we know that immigrants are a vital part of our communities and families. We believe all people should be treated fairly, no matter what they look like or where they were born. And we have enacted policies to uphold these values.

Thus, we are deeply troubled by the federal government’s threats against local policies that protect families and defend civil rights. We decry the awful, xenophobic agenda at play, and the trauma raids induce in communities of color. No amount of intimidation can suppress our values or bury our basic rights.

As we organize to demand that retaliatory raids and arrests cease, the “rapid response” networks are also mobilizing an extensive network of attorneys.

We call for full protection of all people’s constitutional rights to due process. ICE must ensure full access for legal representatives, release anyone arrested who is eligible for release, and not whisk people to for-profit detention centers out of state.

This statement is issued by the following coalitions – ACILEP (Alameda County Immigration Legal and Education Partnership), ACUDIR (Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights), FREE SF (Full Rights Equality & Empowerment SF), Contra Costa East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Monterey County Rapid Response Network, SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network) – and the following organizations: Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, African Advocacy Network, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Causa Justa::Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, California Immigrant Policy Center, Dolores Street Community Services, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Filipino Community Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigrant Liberation Movement, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, La Raza Centro Legal, Legal Services for Children, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Oakland Community Organizations, Pangea Legal Services, People Acting in Community Together (PACT), Sacred Heart Community Service.


Rapid Response Across the USA

Helplines Assist Undocumented Immigrants; Opportunity for Citizen Solidarity

Screen grab from Humboldt Rapid Response Network

We’ve written before about Rapid Response Networks, which offer real-time support to people who are witnessing or experiencing an ICE raid on undocumented immigrants. We’ve been very inspired by the trainings and emergency call-outs we’ve received to observe threatened ICE raids. It’s emotionally powerful to physically “show up” to say it’s wrong for our government to intentionally sow fear. (Read more here about how our local Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network works and how to support it.)

California has around a dozen Rapid Response Networks, which makes sense given that it’s long been a state where many undocumented people live and that it’s home to approximately 25% of young immigrant DREAMers. The Pew Trusts has an interactive map showing the number of “unauthorized immigrants” living in the US, by state. The topline figure was 11.3 million in 2015-16, of which a bit more than half were born in Mexico. Spanish-speaking immigrants are the most visible, but not the only targets: Vietnamese immigrants are thought to be vulnerable in Santa Clara County, California and Irish immigrants in Boston.

The Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network‘s dispatchers—-the people who take the calls reporting ICE activity and, if the caller is targeted, walk them through their rights—tell us that immigrants call from all over the US seeking advice. Hearing that, we’ve started compiling a list of Rapid Response Networks operating around the country. We’re sharing it here (see below).

Maybe you’re interested in volunteering for one, or maybe you or someone you know could use assistance from one. Please write us if you know of other Networks. We plan to continue updating this spreadsheet.

Migra Watch

Witness, Accompany, and Advocate During ICE Raids


This is a personal post. Yesterday, I, Eva, participated in the first post-election event that made me feel potentially useful — beyond marching, phoning, or attending a meeting. I am sharing in case you want to look for similar opportunities. The event was a 2-hour training to be a witness to ICE immigration raids.

Community groups in Santa Clara County, California, are setting up a rapid response network that will have its soft launch this week: a hotline for undocumented immigrants, and their family and friends, to call if ICE shows up at the door. A dispatcher will answer the phone, guide the caller through his/her rights, and text a network of citizen-witnesses who will come to the site of the raid to document it.

Here’s how my event was advertised:

Come learn how you can be a rapid responder so that we can respond to calls from community members concerned about immediate ICE actions throughout Santa Clara County.

The Rapid Response Network aims to expand the community’s capacity to monitor and document ICE operations in real time. We will support the process of gathering evidence used to free someone from ICE custody. We will expose the intimidating and unconstitutional tactics ICE uses to detain immigrants.

Please invite others to attend to help us build the Rapid Response Network we will launch very soon with many partners and volunteers, like you!

I’ve now been trained to be a citizen-witness, with basic knowledge of how to comply with ICE directives while recording the encounter on my phone and documenting the unfolding events. How many agents? What did they say? From which agencies did they come? Badge numbers. Vehicle license plates. And more.

The attorney who helped train us recommends US citizens serve as witnesses because we’re at lower legal risk than immigrants. It’s also something white people can usefully do, with more possible roles if you speak Spanish (I don’t).

I was trained through an event organized by PACT-San José. If you live in Santa Clara County, you can go to their events calendar to sign up for a training. In the event of a raid within 2-5 miles of your address, you’ll receive a text asking if you can come document it. Even if it takes you a while to arrive, it’s helpful. We learned that raids in the Bay Area have been 3 to 6 hours long.

I’m told San Mateo, San Francisco, and Alameda Counties have similar networks. I did some online searching and found the San Francisco Rapid Response Network and another in Brooklyn, NY. The PICO website appears to be a place to hunt for more area networks (I started on their press release page).

Schools Address Deportation Fears

Here’s a high-level update from the Washington Post about possible arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants by ICE, and the ways districts are trying to manage the uncertainty. The takeaway: many districts are trying to reassure students and parents, but they’re quite limited in what they can do.

On the number of students and parents who may be affected:

Millions of U.S. children face growing uncertainty at home because of shifts in immigration policy. The Pew Research Center estimates 3.9 million schoolchildren had an unauthorized immigrant parent in 2014 — or 7.3 percent of all schoolchildren. About 725,000 of those children were unauthorized immigrants themselves.

On whether arrests can happen at schools:

Historically, ICE agents have avoided schools. A 2011 memo says they are barred from arresting or interviewing people at schools, churches, hospitals and other “sensitive locations,” unless there is an imminent threat or they seek approval. Carissa Cuttrell, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the Department of Homeland Security “is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.” [Read the ICE memo that describes the agency’s “sensitive locations” policy]

Many school officials say they want to allay the fears of families. They have hosted educational and legal seminars for immigrants, and in some cases assigned staff to support them. In Harrisonburg, Kizner assembled a crisis response team for immigrant students and their families. He also sent home forms to parents, asking in English and Spanish: “In the event of family separation (accident, arrest, emergency hospitalization, etc.) who will take care of your child temporarily?”

The Prince George’s County school system in Maryland has worked with the county government to place bilingual “community resource officers” in schools to support students dealing with immigration-related problems.

Parent-teacher associations in Alexandria have organized “know your rights” seminars, with the first held this month in an elementary school auditorium. At that event, an attorney from the Tahirih Justice Center urged undocumented parents to think about who would care for their children and what would happen to their property if they are detained.

On the limits to protections schools can provide:

Catherine E. Lhamon, a former assistant education secretary for civil rights in the Obama administration, said […] that schools can take many steps to help families. But ultimately, she said, they must also acknowledge that they can’t guarantee anything about the direction of federal immigration policy.

Image by David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images, copied from above-referenced article.