Baltimore was among 10 cities where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were expected to begin making arrests soon, according to multiple news reports, but President Donald Trump, with a Saturday afternoon tweet, appeared to pause any immediate action.
Trump said that he would delay the immigration enforcement for two weeks “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!”
Trump had said in a tweet earlier this week that the federal government would deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants. Similar operations have been done regularly since 2003, often resulting in hundreds of arrests.
The Washington Post, Miami Herald and New York Times all reported that Baltimore is among 10 cities expected to be targeted with raids. The other cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.
Targets of the enforcement operation could include people in “family units” who already had received final orders to leave the country, according to national reports. ICE officials sent letters to about 2,000 such people in February.
Catholic Charities and the Esperanza Center, which provides resources to immigrants, plan to hold a Know Your Rights presentation at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Southeast Baltimore, the largest Hispanic Catholic parish in the Archdiocese.
Advocates will explain how to respond if approached by immigration authorities. The Esperanza Center is also providing legal services for those concerned about their immigration status by calling 667-600-2922.
“While it is unlikely that the government has the capacity to carry out large scale deportations, even one family torn apart by deportation is too many,” Esperanza Center officials said in a statement. “The stress and anxiety that this kind of announcement creates for communities in our state is enormous.”
Also on Sunday, Archbishop William E. Lori is scheduled to appear at Sacred Heart of Jesus to provide “supportive remarks” in Spanish before the 12:30 p.m. mass, said Sean Caine, an archdiocese spokesman.
Caine said Saturday afternoon that the plans were “unchanged, given the possibility of the raids at a later date.”
CASA, an immigrant advocacy group, also planned to hold a similar presentation on rights at 6 p.m. Monday at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Southeast Anchor Library on Eastern Avenue. CASA also was planning to offer a bystander training session for 6 p.m. Tuesday at CASA’s headquarters at 2224 E. Fayette St.
A CASA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment late Saturday afternoon.
At Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc., another immigrant rights group, advocates say they are responding to individual questions from residents.
ICE officials previously told The Baltimore Sun that it could not provide “specific details related to ongoing enforcement operations before the conclusion of those actions” due to security concerns. The agency did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
A Baltimore Police Department spokesman said Saturday he was not aware of any ICE operation this weekend.
Officials at some local jails that have agreements to hold ICE detainees have said they have not received any notification that they could expect an influx of detainees in coming days.
However, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, tweeted late Friday about reports that Baltimore would be targeted.
“I am deeply concerned about reports that the Trump Administration plans to target migrant families for deportation — including families in Baltimore,” Cummings wrote. “Families will be separated, which is unacceptable and immoral. The Administration must reverse course.”
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Baltimore’s political leaders in recent days have sought to reaffirm to immigrant families that they’re welcome in the city.
State Del. Brooke Lierman, who represents a part of the city with a large immigrant population, said it’s “appalling” that the federal government would waste limited resources on deporting families, when children at the Mexican border are going without basic sanitary items.
“The federal government should be ashamed of itself,” she said. “It is willing to waste resources rounding up families who are trying to do the right thing in their new home country rather than spending money taking care of kids at the border.”
Even after Trump’s tweet saying he would postpone the raids, Lierman said there’s a palpable fear among her constituents. Principals are concerned about their students and parents. Neighbors are worried about the people in their communities.
The administration’s plans — and the apparent walking back of those plans — have created chaos, said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, who represents Baltimore.
“It’s created unbelievable fear and uncertainty and destabilized communities,” he said.
The Associated Press and Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker, Thalia Juarez and Talia Richman contributed to this story.