How Worried Should We Be About Reports of ICE Raids in Texas?

by and

  • Wikimedia commons
Update 5:10 pm:

According to the Department of Homeland Security, ICE agents have raided (although they don't call them "raids") homes and workplaces in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and two other unidentified cities. The agency is claiming that those have all been “routine” enforcement actions, according to the Washington Post — but while agents are focusing on criminals, it appears they've also been picking up non-criminals "in the vicinity" who can't provide documentation. ICE released a separate statement Friday explaining that an ICE agent sustained minor injuries during an early morning arrest in Austin.

Meanwhile Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership says the immigration advocacy group's hotline "has been ringing off the hook" today — a mix of people calling in ICE enforcement actions, what Libal called "an outpouring of support" from concerned citizens, and others calling in for more information. Based on calls to the hotline, Libal says the group believes that anywhere between 20 and 25 people have been taken into ICE custody in the area – most of them in north Austin. Libal said the group has had some reports of immigrants being pulled over in their cars, but couldn't provide any further details.

"Honestly, we just don't know a lot right now," Libal said, adding, “We’re trying to get folks legal support as quickly as possible.”

While the details of ICE enforcement operations in Central Texas remain frustratingly murky for the moment, San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro sent out this update Friday afternoon:

“I have been informed by ICE that the agency’s San Antonio field office has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check. I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state. I will continue to monitor this situation.”
We'll update this story as we learn more.

Original story

Rumors of looming immigration raids have spread quickly across Texas
since President Donald Trump took office. While the fear is far from unjustified — Trump's campaign was largely built on his promise to deport immigrants as soon as possible — the as-of-yet unverified threat of sweeping raids from swarms of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has some immigration policy experts concerned.

"We need to be careful we aren't creating fear that will further push our undocumented communities into the shadows," said Amy Fischer, policy director at RAICES, a San Antonio nonprofit that provides legal assistance and other help to refugees.

Last week, an Austin-based immigrant advocacy group released a bulletin alleging that ICE may have deployed four teams of officers in Travis County, sparking immediate alarm. It's a claim, however, that has yet to be verified. And on Thursday, more reports came from Austin that at least one man had been arrested and detained by ICE agents, causing alarm in immigrant advocacy circles. But according to RAICES Director Jonathan Ryan, this kind of detention (what he called a "targeted enforcement action") shouldn't necessarily cause widespread and unnecessary alarm.

"This happens all the time," Ryan wrote in an email to the Current. "People are just paying more attention and there is a ton more fear right now."

On Friday morning Austin City Councilman Gregorio Casar shared the following message on his public Facebook page: "The community needs to know that we have confirmed a large amount of Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions in Austin." He further wrote, "I believe ICE is out in public arresting people in order to retaliate against our community for standing up for our values against people like Abbott and Trump."

So far, little of that vague, ominous information has been confirmed — aside from the fact that it came from an elected official. Fischer meanwhile says it's extremely important right now that undocumented communities (and their allies) focus their energy on understanding their rights for when — or if — an ICE raid occurs, instead of clinging to unverified claims or rumors of looming sweeps.

"We don't want people to live their lives in fear," she said. "That's exactly what Trump wants."

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.