EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Community advocates are preparing to assist immigrants following the Trump administration’s announcement that the U.S. Border Patrol and other units would be deployed to “sanctuary cities.”
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matthew Albence said on Friday more agents are needed to take into custody unauthorized immigrants released from jails in sanctuary cities and counties. Administration officials said of those places include New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit.
In Chicago, activists said the measure is “political pandering” to conservative voters and an intimidation tactic to keep mixed-status Latino families from participating in the upcoming Census.
Still, they are taking steps to educate immigrant families about their rights and urging them to take precautions. One piece of advice is to make legal arrangements for custody of U.S.-born children in case the parents are deported. Another is to be in touch with a lawyer and their country’s consulate.
“This is not new, we’ve heard these threats before. Still, we take it very seriously because he (Trump) is on a reelection campaign,” said Artemio Arriola, political director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
The group is telling immigrant families not to be afraid nor stop going to work, schools or stores. But it’s recommending that, if they go out and see immigration agents stalking the neighborhood, they should have an adult U.S. family member take the lead and assert the family’s right to free transit and to remain silent.
“We’re not hitting the panic button. That’s what Trump wants: to get people excited, to create a psychosis, to sow terror in our communities,” Arriola said. “The operation might be real, but we’re telling our people to keep calm.”
At Lincoln United Methodist Church in Chicago’s Lower West Side, Pastor Emma Lozano is likewise telling her congregation not to hide.
“We need to understand as Latinos we need not be afraid. We need to be prepared, know our rights and organize ourselves and fight back,” said Lozano, one of the precursors of the immigration sanctuary movement more than a decade ago.
Lozano said the timing of the announcement doesn’t just coincide with the political election campaigns, but also with the upcoming Census. “This is just another tactic that they’re using at a time we need to be counted… We need to be counted,” she said.
The Trump administration didn’t specify which specific units of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be deployed to sanctuary cities. National press reports mentioned tactical units such as BORTAC. The El Paso Sector in Texas has one such unit.
In a statement to Border Report on Tuesday, CBP said the agents being detailed to assist the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would come from different units and sectors.
“While some of them are trained in tactical operations, that is one of the many areas of training. These officers have also been trained in routine immigration enforcement actions which is what they have been asked to do,” the CBP statement said. All CBP officers have the appropriate training “and are more than capable of helping ICE fulfill their mission.”
Arriola said these latest developments threaten to undermine the trust that local law-enforcement agencies have built with mixed-status immigrant communities — those in which at least some members are U.S. citizens or legal residents.
“We need to make sure we have assurances from our local governments that they are not going to cooperate with ICE. Otherwise, if people see (a crime), they’re going to be afraid to tell the police, and that’s not good for anyone” he said.