By VOA News
This story was updated on July 15, 9:20 am
Alejandro Jaramillo contributed from Queens, New York
Nationwide raids aimed at rounding up 2,000 immigrants in the country illegally for possible deportation got off to a low-key, almost invisible start Sunday.
Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Matt Albence said, “We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge.”
He gave no information where arrests were being made or how many people have been detained.
But fears among immigrant communities in big cities of black helmeted agents kicking down doors and shouting orders did not materialize.
All was reported quiet in such places as Miami, New York, Atlanta, and Baltimore, where churches and lawyers were standing by offering sanctuary and ready to help anyone who suspects they are about to be detained. They have told immigrants not to open their doors to agents unless a warrant is produced.
They are also telling anyone arrested not to say anything or sign anything unless a lawyer is present.
“Immigrant and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified and terrorized ways,” Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Mary Bauer said. She added that frightening people is the “point of the whole operation whether enforcement actions take place or not.”
Nine of the 10 mayors of these big cities are Democrats, all except in Miami, and have instructed local authorities to resist cooperating with federal immigration officials.
New York Mayor and presidential candidate Bill de Blasio calls the immigration raids a “political act.”
More than 100 people gathered Sunday in Queens, New York to rally against the raids and call for the abolition of ICE.
“The raids and the threat of raids have been impacting our communities by spreading fear,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez of Queens Neighborhood United. “That’s the only point of these is to spread fear, to make it so people don’t feel safe leaving their homes.”
Acting head of the Customs and Border Protection agency, Mark Morgan, said the latest actions are about enforcing the law.
“Those individuals who remain here illegally, especially those who have received due process more than any other nation in the world would provide someone that came here illegally, to include those with final orders, that there are consequences to those what remain here illegally,” he fold Fox television Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump made the unusual move of announcing the raids ahead of time. He said he was not concerned the early notice could help some of the targeted immigrants avoid arrest.
Other presidents have ordered deportations for immigrants in the country illegally, including Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. But those orders generally targeted those who came here illegally and committed crimes.
ICE agents say they are also mostly targeting immigrants who are considered dangerous.
But immigration advocates say the raids could wind up separating families and arresting those who pose no danger.