Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrant families, which were delayed by President Donald Trump last month, are scheduled to begin this weekend in 10 cities, including Baltimore, sources say. But what is a raid, anyway?
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have previously described the planned action as a large-scale operation, rounding up and deporting more than 2,000 families that already have deportation orders. The agency’s acting director, Mark Morgan, has used the threat as a warning to people seeking to enter the country illegally from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, telling them: “Do not come.”
ICE spokeswoman Justine Whelan, however, disputes that the agency performs “raids” at all. She says the term “targeted enforcement” is more appropriate. But advocates say the semantic distinction doesn’t matter much to those possibly facing deportation and family separation.
How ICE defines it
The ICE agents seen stopping people in Columbia’s Long Reach neighborhood in June stoked fear in the Latino community of sweeping raids, especially given Trump’s repeated pledges to deport undocumented immigrants.
Raids, or roundups of people suspected of being undocumented immigrants, are against agency protocols, Whelan said.
“We don’t conduct raids,” Whelan said. “When officers are out conducting immigration enforcement, they are looking for a target. … For lack of better characterization, there’s no walking down the street, being like, ‘Hey you.’ ”
About 90 percent of all people arrested by ICE during the 2018 fiscal year had a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, or were already subject to a removal order issued by a federal immigration judge, Whelan said.
In most situations, ICE agents go to the person’s home or workplace looking for that person, she said.
“Our protocol is that we conduct targeted enforcement based off of intelligence,” Whelan said.
‘It feels like a raid’
But that intelligence is often gathered by questioning others in the neighborhood, including asking for their documents, which can lead to collateral arrests, said Elizabeth Alex, organizing director at CASA, an immigrant advocacy organization in Baltimore. Collateral arrests involve undocumented immigrants who are not the target of an enforcement action, but are arrested anyway when they are discovered to be without documents.
The distinction between “raids” and “enforcement actions” with collateral arrests doesn’t matter much to those possibly facing deportation and family separation, Alex said. Given the threats of mass deportations coming from the White House, ICE agents entering immigrant neighborhoods and questioning dozens of people raises inevitable alarm, she said.
“Whether ICE calls it a raid or not, it feels like a raid and an invasion into their immigrant community,” she said.
Nick Steiner, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, agreed.
He said his organization is working to educate undocumented immigrants of their rights, including staying silent and consulting with a lawyer before answering questions.
“ICE may ask people about their [immigration] status,” Steiner said. “It’s really important for them to know what their rights are if they’re being questioned by law enforcement.”