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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
SIPA USA/PA Images Activists protesting against immigration raids on 8 July in New York's Grand Central Station
immigration sweep

Undocumented migrants in US wait in fear as no immediate sign of threatened large-scale raids

ICE agents were expected to conduct raids in at least 10 major cities yesterday.

THOUSANDS OF UNDOCUMENTED immigrants in the US have been waiting in uncertainty, fearful of the nationwide raids promised by President Donald Trump, but there were no immediate signs of any large-scale operations.

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were expected to conduct raids in at least 10 major cities yesterday, with plans to arrest about 2,000 undocumented migrants who entered the US recently.

The operation appears far more modest than the “millions” Trump had promised would be detained and expelled when he first mentioned the raids last month.

ICE’s acting director Matthew Albence would not confirm any operational details yesterday, but defended the need for the raids.

“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered to be removed by an immigration judge,” he told Fox News Sunday.

We are merely executing those judges’ orders.

No large-scale sweep

Over the weekend, activists patrolled the streets of several of major cities to document any arrests and offer assistance to anyone detained.

However, while there were scattered reports of possible ICE activity, there were no signs of a large-scale sweep.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had heard of three ICE raids on Saturday, but none resulted in arrests.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New York said in a tweet that it had received “some reports of ICE at subway stations, but none have been substantiated”.

In Florida, ICE agents were seen knocking on doors near Miami International Airport and in a nearby migrant farming community, the Los Angeles Times reported, but no arrests were reported.

The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun reported little evidence of any large-scale ICE operations. The Sun said few immigrants were seen around Baltimore yesterday.  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said authorities in that city had reportedly rented vans for use in raids.

Meanwhile, those likely to be targeted have been living in uncertainty. 

Adding to their concerns were reports that ICE agents are prepared to scoop up not just those named in removal orders but others whom agents might come upon incidentally, potentially including migrants who have been in the country for years.

‘It’s traumatising’

Trump said earlier that it was unfair to those seeking to enter the country legally that others simply walk across the border and enjoy the privileges of American life.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, defended the raids.

“If we don’t have interior enforcement we don’t have deterrents” to illegal migration, he said on ABC’s This Week.

Local and state officials have called on the federal government to show restraint, and several accused Trump of using the operation for political gain. 

“This uncertainty, this fear, is wreaking havoc,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on CNN.

It’s traumatising people.

On Friday, Trump insisted that “most mayors” wanted the raids because “they don’t want to have crimes in their cities” – repeating his frequent but incorrect assertion that migrants are more likely to be criminals than native-born Americans.

De Blasio told CNN yesterday that the millions of undocumented people in the US are “core to our economy and part of our community” and he accused Trump of using the raids ”to foment division”.

What he’s doing with our ICE agents is not about securing our borders. It is an electoral effort by President Trump.

The US has been struggling with the migration crisis on its southern border, as thousands of people stream into the US, mostly from Central American countries struggling with violence and poverty. 

More than 100,000 undocumented people arrived last month – down 28% from May but still a “full-blown emergency”, according to the Department of Homeland Security. has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for a statement in relation to undocumented Irish immigrants in the US. 

Includes reporting by - © AFP 2019

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