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Have Trump’s Mass Deportations Begun? Immigration Arrests Reported Around the Country

Tina Vasquez

Immigration activists protested for hours last night in downtown Los Angeles, calling for the release of those detained.

Multiple accounts of immigration arrests have been reported in California, North Carolina, and Texas, among other states, according to numerous sources. Advocates working to confirm the identities of those detained say the suspected raids mark the beginning of President Trump’s mass deportation efforts.

One day after a man who identified himself as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) associate field director assured a group of North Carolina educators and parents that schools would remain “safe spaces” for undocumented students, local Spanish media outlets reported immigration arrests at a mobile home complex less than two miles from the predominately Latino pre-K-8 Berryhill School in Charlotte. Children in school buses witnessed the arrests on Thursday, according to Que Pasa Mi Gente.

Rumors circulated that ICE agents were on campus targeting undocumented parents and children, forcing the school principal, Cara Heath, to email the parents of 674 students, according to Que Pasa. More than 400 of the students are Latino.

“You may have heard rumors that immigration officials were at our school today, and I want to assure you that no such activity has occurred at our school … We realize that reports of immigration operations are a very sensitive issue for our students and families in the school. Please note that we have counselors at the school to provide any emotional support that is needed at this time,” the message read, according to Que Pasa.

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However, Que Pasa obtained an earlier version of an email sent by Heath, which says that students and staff witnessed the arrests of undocumented immigrants.

“As many of you have heard or seen this morning, immigration is arresting illegal immigrants in this area this morning. I know this is bothersome to the children as well as to all of you. Al staff and students observed how some immigrants were taken on their routes to school this morning,” a translated version of the email from Heath said.

ICE spokesperson Brian Cox told Que Pasa the agency does not conduct raids “directed at foreigners indiscriminately,” and that the arrests were part of “routine law enforcement operations.” Despite children witnessing the arrests, Cox asserted that ICE’s policy on sensitive locations is being honored. Under that policy, undocumented immigrants “seeking to participate in activities or use services provided at any sensitive location,” including schools, should be able to do so without fear.

The immigration arrests near Berryhill come a day after multiple reports of ICE detaining undocumented immigrants in the region. As Rewire reported on Thursday, five people were detained at one intersection near the Latin American Coalition office, though community reports suggest there were several areas where ICE arrested immigrants in Charlotte on February 8. ICE officials have said the agency does not operate checkpoints in the region.

As many as 20 undocumented immigrants were taken into ICE custody this week in different parts of the city, according to Spanish media reports.

As news of suspected raids travels on social media from around the country, attorneys and advocates are left wondering if such arrests will be the “new normal” under the Trump administration. In a press release, Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based immigration advocacy organization, said that “Trump’s deportation force” has hit Austin, with multiple undocumented immigrants targeted in an ICE raid. Much is still unknown about the populations taken into ICE custody, but there are reports in Spanish media outlets that at least some of the immigrants targeted did not have criminal records.

Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration programs director, told Rewire in an email that her organization is working to confirm the identities of those detained in Austin. She suspects ICE sought out immigrants with prior orders of removal during the mass arrests, a practice that was common under President Obama.

Unverified reports from Los Angeles suggest as many as 100 undocumented immigrants were arrested, including in the Southern California cities of Van Nuys, Downey, and San Bernardino. Last night in downtown Los Angeles, immigration activists protested for hours, calling for the release of those detained.

Meanwhile, some outlets are calling Guadalupe García de Rayos one of the first immigrants deported as a direct result of Trump’s executive orders. The mother of two had been in the United States for 21 years, and spent eight of those years regularly checking in with ICE officials after she was caught using a fake social security number at work. This criminal charge made her a “priority for deportation” under the Trump order.

An estimated eight million undocumented immigrants are priorities for deportation under the Trump administration, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

At a press conference yesterday about García de Rayos’s deportation, her 14-year-old daughter Jaqueline Rayos Garcia shared that she had to pack her mother’s suitcase upon learning she was being deported.

As Fusion‘s Jorge Rivas reported, Garcia told the crowd gathered at the Phoenix press conference: “It’s just sad to see what this world has come to, especially with the new president we have now.”

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