Immigrant families across the country waited in fear Sunday as President Donald Trump’s planned mass deportation raids failed to manifest in major U.S. cities.
The president confirmed Friday that his administration was planning to launch raids in at least 10 major cities Sunday in an operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that aims to arrest and deport thousands of migrants living in the U.S. ICE agents are expected to target at least 2,000 immigrants over the course of several days.
But on Sunday, cities failed to see the mass roundups that immigrant families, activists, city leaders and attorneys were bracing for, leaving communities waiting in terror.
Any enforcement actions reported this weekend were more similar to routine ICE arrests. The agency, which immigration activists and several lawmakers say should be abolished, regularly detains and removes immigrants a judge has deemed should be deported after a court hearing.
ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence declined to confirm to The Washington Post whether agents were conducting a widespread operation on Sunday. The newspaper reported that law enforcement officials are worried the national publicity of the raids endangered officers and threatened their ability to detain immigrants.
“There’s not anything I’m going to say that would jeopardize my officers,” Albence told the Post, citing an attack Saturday in Washington state where a man who previously protested in front of an ICE detention center returned with a rifle and incendiary devices. “Operationally, we’ll never divulge details that would put our officers at any more risk than they already face in this toxic environment.”
Cities across the country ― including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Chicago ― have been preparing for the mass roundups after The New York Times first reported the plan. Preparations included informing immigrant families of their rights should they be confronted by ICE agents or detained by them. Democratic lawmakers like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) have also shared “know your rights” campaigns.
According to the Times, agents would target immigrants who have been given orders of removal, including some for not having appeared in court. The raids could also involve “collateral” arrests, which means agents could detain immigrants who are at the scene of another arrest, even if they were not initially targeted.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday that ICE agents unsuccessfully attempted to round up residents in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood and Harlem after families declined to answer their doors. The Democratic mayor has said his city would not cooperate with ICE.
Other cities are following suit with that sentiment. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department would not cooperate with ICE, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced an executive action last week permanently banning ICE from accessing all police databases in the city, including gang databases, for federal immigration reasons. Immigration activists in Chicago have called on the mayor to sign an executive order barring city cooperation with any agency under the Department of Homeland Security, but Lightfoot has refused to go that far.
While no mass raids occurred in Chicago on Sunday, business in immigrant enclaves was especially slow, with not a lot of people out. Rey Wences, an organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportation, told HuffPost that being so public about raids can cause panic and chaos, “but ultimately I think our communities have been pushing and fighting against the threat of deportations and raids and detention for many years now.”
“The goal may be to wear us down. It is frustrating, it is chaotic. I’m not going to lie, it is stressful,” Wences said. “But we know that allowing an administration like this to be aggressive and standing up against that … we have been fighting for many years” and are ready to keep fighting, Wences said.
It’s still possible that mass immigrant roundups can begin later. According to the ACLU, don’t open the door if ICE agents come to your home, ask officers to pass any warrants under the door, and check that it is a judicial search warrant signed by a judge. If they come in anyway, do not physically resist arrest; instead, ask for a lawyer and do not sign any papers without one present.