ICE Raids Target Sanctuary Cities: 500 Immigrants Arrested in Four Days

October 2, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


In a four-day period ending Sunday, September 24, the ICE immigration police rounded up nearly 500 immigrants in a number of cities and regions of the country in what they called “Operation Safe City.” These raids had nothing to do with making cities “safe.” This was the use of federal force by the Trump/Pence regime to deliver a reactionary political threat. Its open intent was to intimidate cities and other jurisdictions that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants—refusing to subordinate the law to this fascist regime’s vicious deportation agenda. And at a time when immigration arrests have risen 43 percent since the Trump/Pence regime took power, these raids further terrorized undocumented immigrants, sending the message that sanctuary cities cannot protect them.

In ICE’s own words, “Operation ‘Safe City’ focused on cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons... or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored.... Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration.” The “violators” singled out and targeted were New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Washington, and Baltimore as well as Cook County, Illinois; Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area; Portland, Oregon; and across Massachusetts.

“Detainers” are orders from ICE for local police to hold people they arrest until federal agents have time to come and take them, regardless of whether the person has a legal right to be released. ICE detainers are not based on probable cause; they are not signed by a judge but in most cases by some ICE agent. They are not reviewed by any court. Several courts have ruled that detaining someone not because of a crime they committed but because another government agency wants to get their hands on them is unconstitutional.

Instilling Fear Among Immigrants

David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the Guardian, “Persecuting cities because they are following the constitution and making sure they don’t violate people’s rights takes it down to a new level of low... This is all about instilling fear in the immigrant community.”

Jon Rodney, with the California Immigrant Policy Center, called these raids part of a “longstanding pattern of scapegoating, criminalizing, and demonizing immigrants.” He said that “Trump’s deportation force...simply cannot carry out its dirty work without enlisting thousands of local law enforcement agencies.”

Only days before ICE’s “Safe City” operation was launched, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General for this regime, spoke in Portland. Over 150 people were outside, condemning his appearance and the message that he was bringing. As Trump does in his Nazi rallies, Sessions attacked anyone opposing the fascist agenda. He stoked racist, anti-immigrant fears based on claims that “pedophiles, rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and arsonists” are supposedly being protected by sanctuary cities—and therefore that sanctuary cities must be “a trafficker, smuggler, or gang member’s best friend.” To this top representative of the in-justice system under the Trump/Pence regime, sanctuary cities are a part of society’s “eroding” discipline and a “disturbing disrespect for the law.”

“Operation Mega”

In early September, there were reports that ICE was going to launch “Operation Mega” at the end of September, targeting at least 8,000 undocumented immigrants. An internal document described the plan as “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE.” ICE later released a statement saying because of the situation with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, there was no nationwide operation planned at this time. Two weeks later, they launched Operation “Safe City.” Whether ICE still plans to implement the “Mega” raids at a later time is unclear. What is certain is that the cruel, unjust attacks on immigrants will continue to escalate as long as this fascist regime is in power. They must be stopped.



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