“Central Florida immigration groups prepare as ICE deportation raids delayed”

Originally posted in Orlando Sentinel and written by Monivette Cordeiro

Despite President Donald Trump announcing a two-week delay in mass-deportation raids that had been expected to start last Sunday, Central Florida advocates are readying immigrants by offering legal aid and training them on what to do if federal agents show up at their door.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not say how many people in Central Florida would be affected by the mass removal, citing “law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security” of ICE agents.

“ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” agency spokesman Matthew Bourke said in a statement. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.”

At the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, which supports immigrant communities, Sister Ann Kendrick said undocumented people were already being targeted locally for deportation, but new reports of massive raids are “ratcheting up the fear.”

“It’s part of the disconcerting strategy of this administration to just kick people off their feet, the immigrants who’ve been here for 20, 30 years,” Kendrick said. “We give them work and when it’s politically expedient we posture this great removal thing, as if it doesn’t destroy the fabric of a family, the dreams of children.”

Leading up to Gov. Ron DeSantis signing SB 168, which bans “sanctuary cities” in Florida, the Hope CommUnity Center has done “know your rights” training sessions and helped immigrants put together “dignity plans,” which involves gathering legal documents, power of attorney letters, school and medical records, taxes, deeds, community achievements and other documentation to have on hand if they’re detained or deported.

The dignity plans help undocumented people with U.S.-born children figure out who will take care of those minors if they are separated.

The Farmworker Association of Florida, which has offices in Apopka, Fellsmere, Homestead, Immokalee and Pierson, is providing similar free services, said Antonio Tovar, interim director of the organization. Like Kendrick, Tovar said deportation levels have not changed much in Central Florida – what has changed is the public’s attitude toward migrants.

“When Trump became president, many communities started to feel more racism than before,” Tovar said. “Kids are being bullied in schools, with other students telling them immigration is going to take them.”

Henry Lim, an Orlando immigration attorney, said his firm has seen an uptick in clients who are being detained over the past couple of months. Trump announced June 17 that ICE would remove “millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”

Local immigration attorneys are coordinating efforts to provide free services for those detained, Lim said. Unlike defendants in criminal cases, immigrants detained by ICE don’t have the right to free legal representation because deportation proceedings are civil cases.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary resources to keep up with the demands,” Lim said. “We need accessibility and attorneys who are willing to defend the rights of these immigrants.”

The Florida Immigrant Coalition has set up a hotline where immigrants can get information about their rights or legal referrals, said spokesman Thomas Kennedy. The number is 1-888-600-5762. The activist group is also asking people who have room in their homes to allow undocumented immigrants with final deportation orders to stay with them.

“We’ve seen this in the past in Homestead where ICE will stay outside someone’s home and wait for them to go to the grocery store or work to detain them,” Kennedy said. “We are telling people not to open the doors for ICE agents. If they have to engage, ask them to slip a warrant under the door. ICE warrants are not signed by a judge, so they don’t have to respond to them.”

The deportation crackdown was expected to start this past weekend in 10 major U.S. metropolitan areas, including Miami as the only Florida city, with ICE targeting about 1 million people with final deportation orders, the Miami Herald reported.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start! 104K2:56 PM – Jun 22, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy59.1K people are talking about this

ICE first planned to target undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as children without their parents and are now 18, as well as immigrants ordered removed by a court in absentia and those who failed to appear at court hearings or communicate with the federal government, according to the Herald.

Trump decided to postpone the raids for two weeks after a Friday call from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting that he hoped lawmakers would “work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”

But the Associated Press reported the delay in mass raids was also caused by leaks of the plan to the media and a concern for the safety of ICE agents.

mcordeiro@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5774

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