On Tuesday, the White House sketched out a new immigration bill that would include more border security, a merit-based system for those applying for visas, a tighter asylum procedure and a nationwide federal employment verification system known as E-verify. It’s unclear when, if ever, the bill will go to Congress, but the announcement comes on the heels of President Trump's rant against four congresswomen of color, three of whom are U.S.-born. Trump proposed: “why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
As if all this weren't enough immigration news over the last couple days, this week was also the start of the ICE raids targeting migrant families that Trump announced last month. So far, the raids have been smaller than expected and immigration advocates think they know why.
“In New York, folks were well-supported and well-prepared,” said Carolina Martin Ramos from Centro Legal De La Raza. “When immigration officials showed up at their door, they demanded to see a valid warrant signed by a federal magistrate judge. The ICE officers were not prepared with real warrants to detain these folks and they had to leave."
YR Media reached out to folks in New York, Houston and Chicago to find out how they're experiencing the raids on the ground.
New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization led by and for immigrants, posted several resources on their site for undocumented families and allies.
They urged people, especially U.S. citizens, to sign up as Buddies to those who are undocumented. “You're sort of just there so that they know that they have community members standing with them as these ICE raids are happening,” said Meryl Ranzer, New Santuary Coalition's media manager.
Ranzer said being a Buddy can mean taking people to court dates, helping them fill out paperwork, and in the most severe cases, caring for children of parents who are detained.
Because President Trump announced the raids a month in advance, immigration advocates like those at New Sanctuary were able to act fast, sharing “Know Your Rights” cards and advising people on what to do if taken into custody.
“New York is a very tight-knit community. Everybody came together to do rapid response and to make sure that our undocumented friends know their rights,” said Ranzer.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee met with several faith leaders and asked them to open their doors to undocumented families during the raids. Dozens of churches reportedly complied, preparing to take in families to spend the night and provide food. But accessing those resources came with expectations, according to Pastor Robert Stearns of the Living Waters Ministries in Houston.
“When families come in, they gotta understand this: this is not a hiding place,” said Pastor Stearns, who responded to the congresswoman's call. “This is not a place to where I want to shelter you so you can turn around and break the law. I'm not helping anybody break the law.”
"You're not breaking the law if you're coming for refuge in order to be able to determine how you can legally respond to the deportation order," said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. "What Houston did is that we opened the doors of churches to frightened migrants."
Pastor Stearns was unaware of anyone showing up at the local churches seeking shelter from the raids so far, but that doesn't mean people aren’t calling for help. “If they are too afraid to [leave their home], we get them their food, we get them the necessities that they need,” he said.
Working in shifts throughout the day on July 14, immigration advocates and volunteers took to the streets on bikes and by foot in Chicago, patrolling for ICE vehicles. “We wanted to create some kind of barrier or some kind of defense against [ICE] coming into the neighborhood and snatching undocumented people,” said Diego Morales, an organizer of the event in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.
Morales credited The Black Panthers in the 1960s for establishing the tactic of street patrols to address, in their case, police brutality against African Americans.
“We had 90 people that were out patrolling throughout the day,” said Morales. “It was surprising. It was certainly more than we expected. And it was really inspiring, to be honest, to see that many people mobilize so quickly.”
Miguel Jimenez was one of the volunteers who walked up and down blocks for two hours, keeping an eye out for ICE officials so he could warn community members. He said he decided to volunteer because he views the raids as “a horrifying attack on human beings and I can’t stand by without doing something about it.”
No ICE officers were spotted by patrols, according to Morales. But Jimenez found the experience enlightening nonetheless. “As I patrolled on foot, I really got a sense of how these attacks are hurting people, financially, emotionally and psychologically,” Jimenez said.