‘Hundreds of calls’: Immigrant families brace for raids that could include Sacramento

Sacramento immigrant families are bracing for a series of nationwide raids the Trump administration is expected to launch Sunday, which activists warned could include the Sacramento area.

Ever since President Trump announced a plan to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants in a June 17 tweet, many immigrant families in Sacramento have been living in fear.

“Since then, we have received hundreds of calls,” said Gladys Puente, program coordinator for the city of Sacramento’s Families United Education and Legal Network, or FUEL. “This has instilled a lot of fear in families.”

FUEL officials have received information that San Francisco and Northern California may be a target of raids, Puente said. Los Angeles is also on a list of 10 potential U.S. cities where raids may take place, and Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter this week that “(r)umors of mass ICE raids in major cities this weekend is stirring up anxiety within our immigrant communities. My message to each of you: Regardless of your immigration status, be prepared. It’s critical that you know your rights.”

There was an uptick in immigration enforcement in Northern California starting July 7, mostly in the Bay Area, said Hamid Yazdan Panah of the Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network.

So far, local advocates have not heard of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) raids in the Sacramento area.

In the last month, FUEL officials have been contacted by only one man who received a visit from ICE at his home in late June, Puente said. ICE authorities went to the Elk Grove home looking for a man who had been previously given a removal order, Puente said. The man was not home at the time. The program provided the man access to an attorney and a family emergency plan, and ICE officials haven’t been back since.

On Thursday, a delegation of attorneys visited ICE processing centers in Stockton and San Francisco to demand access to people in custody, Panah said. They were told the facilities are closed to the public on Sundays, so lawyers would not be able to enter on the day of the planned raids.

The ACLU of Northern California filed a temporary restraining order in federal court Saturday to require lawyers access to the facilities in Stockton and San Francisco on Sunday.

ICE officials did not immediately return an email seeking comment Saturday on the lawsuit and possible raids.

In anticipation of increased deportation actions from the Trump administration, the city of Sacramento this year expanded the FUEL program, which provides legal aid to people fighting deportation. The City Council allocated $500,000 for the FUEL program in the fiscal year that started July 1, up from $300,000 last year.

Last year, when the FUEL program launched, it paid for legal aid for 28 undocumented immigrants, and legal services for more than 300 people applying for citizenship, green cards and other services. It also trained more than 250 educators in multiple districts so they can talk to families about how to access legal representation.

An estimated 134,000 Sacramento County residents are not U.S. citizens, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2017. That’s about 9 percent of the county’s residents. It’s not known how many are here illegally.

The Trump administration’s raids this weekend are expected to target about 2,000 of the 1 million undocumented immigrants who have previously been given final removal orders – a sign that it’s intended as a scare tactic, said Sacramento Vice Mayor Eric Guerra.

“This is clearly the administration’s attempt of creating fear for working families,” said Guerra, the son of Mexican immigrants.

Diana Campos, organizer at Sacramento Area Congregations Together, agreed.

“The administration knows what it’s doing,” Campos said. “It’s trying to instill fear in the community and I think our community knows that.”

Many Sacramento immigrant families are fearful even if they do not have a removal order, Puente said.

“Even people who have their residency are in fear as well,” Puente said. “Not just undocumented people, but those who are on a pathway to citizenship.”

Campos said she has noticed more Sacramento immigrant families feeling less afraid and more empowered since the FUEL program began.

“Our message is to build power not panic,” Puente said. “Making sure families know what their constitutional rights are – that if they are confronted by ICE, they have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent – and making sure they have a safety plan.”

The program provides two attorneys who are on call at all times for legal aid, as well as about 38 volunteer attorneys available for people who need bond hearings and representation at the facilities, Guerra said.

“If someone does get picked up, we want to make sure they get immediate representation because that’s the most important time,” Guerra said.

To report ICE activity in the Sacramento area or request a legal consultation for a detainee, call 916-245-6773. To request legal assistance for a non-detained person, call 916-446-7901 or 916-313-7604.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee