Last week, fear swept the San Francisco Bay Area’s immigrant community after rumors began to swirl of imminent ICE raids. ICE director Thomas Homan told Fox News that the agency would significantly increase enforcement across California, and said the sanctuary state should “hold on tight.” Citing an anonymous source, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Bay Area might be specifically targeted.
The interview below had been edited for clarity and length.
NOEL ANAYA: So the first question I wanted to ask you was about the rumors that there’s going to be a big ICE raid coming into the Bay Area. How can how can people tell if this is real or not?
LISA WEISSMAN-WARD: I think one thing to recognize is even if they’re not real, this is an intentional, coordinated effort on behalf of the Trump administration to incite panic and fear. That’s the intent, even if they never actually intend to carry out the raids.
Community and organizers and advocates and attorneys are are preparing just in case so that we can have a coordinated response. We feel like it’s better to be prepared not because we’re going to buy into this idea of let’s all panic and let’s get afraid, but we’ve been working for months and months now on having a coordinated network to respond to increased immigration enforcement. I think that the communities are in a much better position now to respond now than even a year ago.
How can a young person whose family is undocumented prepare for a raid?
It really depends whether that young person is themselves documented or not. If the young person has papers, that’s going to put them potentially in a different position to advocate and support their family members versus if they’re also vulnerable.
One thing that everybody can do but particularly young people is don’t pile on by spreading rumors. Unless you know that that an arrest or raid is happening for sure, spreading and talking about it on social media before it’s been confirmed is actually very dangerous. The other thing that young folks can do is have the information. So depending on where people live there are hotlines. There are 24/7 hotlines in most of the Bay Area, so folks should have those numbers accessible. If there is, in fact, a raid happening, people can come to legally observe. There are also going to be emergency attorneys that can respond immediately. Knowing that there is a network in place I think can be very empowering for the young person and their family.
I was doing my research and there’s something called a “Know Your Rights” card. I want to know: what is that and how can someone get one?
I’m so glad that you asked that! Yes. Let’s say immigration (ICE, La Migra) is at your door and asking you questions. You should not answer the door unless immigration has a signed warrant by the judge. Often the immigration agent will put up a piece of paper in English that says warrant on it but it may not actually be the right document, which needs to be signed by a judge. It’s confusing. What do you do?
Instead of trying to engage them verbally, the “Know Your Rights” Card,” also known as red cards because they are typically red, are pieces of paper you can slide under the door that list out your rights. That way immigration agents see that that you’re exercising your right to maintain silence and that you know that in order to enter they need a warrant.
There are a lot of groups in the area that have access to them and are wanting to share them. And I should say they are free. So if someone is being told you need to pay fifty dollars for this card it’s a sham. They are free.
Where could a young person go or what could they do if their parents get detained? How could a kid help their parents with that process?
Don’t wait to get more information on how to protect your rights in the event of an arrest. I think it’s also helpful for families to make plans, like making sure that people have phone numbers for trusted friends of family members or setting up a phone tree. Make sure that you know what nonprofits or private attorneys you can call in the events of an emergency so that you’re not sort of scrambling at the last minute. I think that family members should also be talking about what documents they should and shouldn’t carry.
If the person has some type of valid work permit, it’s good to carry that around. In the event that they don’t and they don’t have any type of papers, it would be good advice to not carry on your person any documentation about your country of origin. Also, you don’t want to present any documents that are false because that would be very problematic in the future.
If you are in a home watching this happen to a family member and you feel like you’re in a position to document — meaning you’re not at risk of being arrested yourself — that’s helpful. Videos and pictures are a way of documenting what’s happening. It’s also good to obtain the names and phone numbers of witnesses and then make sure the hotlines are called in order to report any kind of arrest.
If there is an incident where I’m a minor and my family is detained, what does that mean for a young person? Are they put into foster care or are they put into temporary shelter?
There are authorizations that one adult can give to another to care for the children temporarily. There are legal documents called powers of attorney that if a parent is concerned they can basically sign the document that would allow another trusted adult to make financial, legal or child care decisions in that person’s assets. So again, this goes into the planning. I know it can be very nerve wracking to have to even think of a plan. But it’s being prepared and not buying into the hysteria.
Can ICE raid a school? I think a lot of young folks are interested in that.
So there is a memorandum called “The safe places zone” that basically means ICE has agreed to not conduct immigration enforcement at places like hospitals or schools. And so for the most part I’m not aware of any raids at schools. I know that there have been single individuals [arrested] outside of school although that is not very common.