As news spread Monday of immigration raids around the U.S., tips to avoid deportation began spreading on social media.
On Twitter, under the Little Village neighborhood handle, news of a Schaumburg man being “tricked” into turning himself in to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was accompanied by reminders to remain silent if questioned by ICE and to decline signing any forms presented by ICE.
People started freaking out.
“It’s causing terror and panic,” Chicago immigration lawyer Juan M. Soliz told me. “People are afraid to go to church, to do daily stuff.”
Soliz’s office has fielded calls all week from distraught immigrants who are undocumented. One woman fled to the Faith, Life, and Hope Mission in the Back of the Yards neighborhood for sanctuary after men who identified themselves as ICE agents came to her door in Little Village on Wednesday. “They showed a badge,” Soliz said the woman, Maria DeLara, told him.
ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said in an email to me that ICE hasn’t taken any enforcement action at DeLara’s residence.
Was DeLara the victim of a cruel prank? Did she misunderstand the men at the door? Or were they ICE agents at her door? It’s hard to tell fact from fiction when fear spreads in a neighborhood.
The lawyer said DeLara shouldn’t be a priority for ICE and has asked for assurances from the agency that she will be left alone. She has been in the country for 23 years and her three adult children are U.S. citizens. DeLara seems to fit criteria for temporary legal status under President Barack Obama’s executive action in November 2014, but it hasn’t been implemented because of court challenges.
Under parameters set by Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, for this latest round of removals, DeLara should be safe. On the DHS website, Johnson said the agency is looking to deport criminals, those who pose a threat to public safety and those who arrived after Jan. 1, 2014.
Raids last weekend focused mostly on Central Americans living in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas who entered the country illegally with children. Many of them had sought asylum and turned themselves over to ICE after crossing the border. Johnson said those being deported had exhausted the appeals process and received final orders for deportation. Except that it wasn’t the case.
Among the 121 immigrants detained were four Central American families who received stays of deportation Tuesday while their asylum claims are reviewed further. Immigrant advocates point to those cases as examples of DHS irresponsibly cutting short the appeals process for many who have valid asylum claims.
The raids and deportations are meant to send a message to Central Americans planning long and dangerous treks to the U.S. because of the violence in their countries. The Obama administration cannot afford a repeat of the 2014 migrant crisis when a record number of Central Americans crossed into the U.S., especially as the U.S. Supreme Court reviews his executive actions on immigration. In his statement, Johnson said the number of those crossing illegally had again gone up in recent months.
We don’t know yet if the recent highly publicized raids will deter Central Americans from coming. I know it has had a chilling effect on Latino neighborhoods in Chicago.
Follow Marlen Garcia on Twitter: @MarlenGarcia777