Preparations for an immigration raid

A rally for immigrants at Diversity Plaza.
A rally for immigrants at Diversity Plaza. Photo Credit: Jason Kempin

Here are some of the ways immigrants are preparing after President Donald Trump’s threat of nationwide deportation raids:

  • Keeping their kids out of school.
  • Creating elaborate plans for how to pay rent or get their children from one place to another.
  • Reminding themselves that they don’t have to answer if someone asks them what their name is, a response to the rumor that immigration agents might be “stalking” people living here illegally to determine their actual residence.

So said a range of immigrant advocates and supporters, about 40 of whom gathered in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights on Monday.

Over the weekend, Trump went on Twitter to delay the deportation actions he’d only just announced. The delay was framed as a sort of bargaining chip to get Congress to have a much-procrastinated look at the crisis situation at the border. If not: “Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”

The raids are not new but Trump’s announcement of them was, as was his threat to “begin the process of removing the millions” of people living here illegally.  

You might suspect a political motive rather than a practical one here, as such a dragnet deportation would be exceedingly difficult given the million-plus people with final deportation orders. But the fear prompted by these statements is real, the advocates said.

Tania Mattos, 35, who works with the immigration service group UnLocal, says some people have been encouraged to “go underground.”

She told the story of an Ecuadorian father living in Corona concerned about the plan for multi-city raids because he has an order of deportation. He was arrested but not convicted in a previous traffic accident, Mattos said, and he was worried that Immigration and Customs Enforcement knows where he lives.

So he left his home — taking along his wife and two U.S. citizen children. Not self-deporting, just hiding out elsewhere in New York City. He was so concerned about keeping his location confidential that he wouldn’t even give Mattos’ team his new address.

UnLocal has seen other immigrants afraid of going to work, lying low for a few days.

Then there was this story about the lengths people will go: Virginia Ramos Rios, the former campaign manager for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was on the edge of the rally Monday when a woman came up to her. The woman said she had encouraged a frightened neighbor with a young baby to enter her home to throw immigration agents off the trail. Then the neighbor could safely go to her own home through the back. The woman mentioned that her neighbor just wanted to be able to go out and get her baby some fresh air.

All the threats, to what end? The crowd at Diversity Plaza suspected politics, which made the real-world preparations being made in response to threats even more sad.

“Last year, it was the caravan,” said Assemb. Catalina Cruz, referring to the group of migrants Trump became fond of tweeting about around the midterm elections. This year, as he launches his re-election, it’s “let’s get into people’s homes and separate them.”

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