Foon Rhee

If there are deportation sweeps, here’s where the impact and protests will be

Pittsburgh residents march Thursday in a “Day Without Immigrants” protest, held across the nation against President Donald Trump’s crackdown.
Pittsburgh residents march Thursday in a “Day Without Immigrants” protest, held across the nation against President Donald Trump’s crackdown. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s no wonder that big protests against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies happen in major cities, including those Thursday when immigrants skipped school and work and closed restaurants to show what America would be like without them.

In fact, most undocumented immigrants live in just 20 major metro areas, according to a study that gives a clearer picture of the potential impact if Trump follows through on sweeping deportations.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that five of those metro areas are in California: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. They account for nearly 1.8 million of the estimated national total of 11 million undocumented immigrants; all but Riverside are “sanctuary” cities. And while the 20 metro areas include 36 percent of the total U.S. population, they’re home to 61 percent of undocumented immigrants, according to the analysis.

As many as 8 million could be subject to deportation, based on how broad Trump’s executive action appears to be, according to calculations by the Los Angeles Times. While the Obama administration focused on those with multiple criminal convictions, repeat illegal border crossers and recent arrivals, Trump is additionally targeting those who have committed a “chargeable criminal offense.” That could include those who didn’t use an official border crossing, or signed forms that they were legally allowed to work.

Fears of ramped-up deportations spiked with raids last week in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City that resulted in nearly 700 arrests. Activists quickly protested in Los Angeles, where 161 people, mostly from Mexico, were detained. Anxiety increased even more with news that a “Dreamer” – protected from deportation under President Barack Obama’s executive order known as DACA – was arrested in Seattle during last week’s raids.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement insisted they were normal “targeted enforcement operations,” with convicted criminals accounting for three-fourths of those arrested. ICE said the Dreamer was a gang member.

Yet, Trump trumpeted the raids as keeping his campaign promises, and in his press conference Thursday he vowed again to crack down on sanctuary cities and to deport “criminal aliens,” gang members and drug dealers. But he also said deciding about DACA is “very difficult” because many of the kids are “incredible.” “We are going to deal with DACA with heart,” he promised.

Advocacy groups, however, fear that a heartless Trump plans even bigger roundups, and that legal immigrants will get swept up. The 20 metros are also home to 65 percent of legal immigrants, according to the Pew study.

Trump continues to claim, without any evidence whatsoever, that 3 million to 5 million people illegally cast ballots and cost him a popular vote victory. So it’s worth noting that he lost 17 of these 20 metro areas to Democrat Hillary Clinton, by an average of more than 20 percentage points, according to

I’d hate to think Trump’s bruised ego would determine how his administration enforces immigration law. But given how defensive he is about his election, nothing would surprise me.

By the numbers

Estimated undocumented immigrant populations in selected California metro areas in 2014, with national ranking:

Metro area



% of

total pop.

2. Los Angeles

1 million


9. Riverside



11. San Francisco



13. San Diego



18. San Jose



30. Sacramento



35. Fresno



64. Modesto



Source: Pew Research Center