Threats of ICE sweep – sooner or later – have Southern California immigrant community on edge
Says one: Trump is “just scaring people”
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2019 at 7:55 pm | UPDATED: June 24, 2019 at 11:30 am
President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that “millions of illegal aliens” would be rounded up on Sunday, June 23 sent panic through Southern California’s immigrant community. News that he delayed the sweep for a couple of weeks did little to lessen fears.
“The president’s tweet about deportation increased the already existing fear that my family and I endure daily,” said Lancaster resident Diana, 18, who declined to give her last name. “We’ve had to go over our ‘deportation plans’ more times than I can count.”
“We can’t even go to the store without fear that we will be stopped by the police,” she said. “My neighbors and extended family are confused and scared.”
Trump tweeted Saturday that the deportations are on hold while Democrats and Republicans “work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!”
Sunday’s operation would really not have targeted millions of people, immigration experts said, and would only have gone after those who either already were ordered deported by a judge or did not show up for court, along with unaccompanied minors who have turned 18.
Despite the president’s two-week cooling-off period, which he said came at the request of Congressional Democrats, the increasingly intense immigration debate appears to be driving officials to more extreme stances. Thoughtful compromise doesn’t appear to be imminent.
Backers of the deportation sweeps say they’re upholding the law and could deter more undocumented immigrants from entering the country. But Southern Californian immigrants and their supporters, meanwhile, fear that families with children will soon be broken up.
“People are being held hostage, with a fear of going out in the street and thinking they were going to be detained by ICE,” said San Gabriel resident Karla Herrera, who has friends and family who are undocumented. Trump, she said, “is just scaring people.”
Highland Park resident Jared Solis, 15, attended an anti-ICE protest in Los Angeles on Sunday. His father, Jair Solis, was taken away by immigration agents before dawn on Feb. 22 and spent three weeks in detention at the Theo Lacy Detention Center in Orange County.
“It was all downhill from there,” Jared Solis said. “I didn’t get my actual dad back: I got what was left of him.”
Jair Solis’ oldest son, currently serving in the Army in Afghanistan, had encouraged him to begin the immigration process earlier this year. But a ticket Jair Solis had received 23 years go, for driving without a license, something he was ineligible for then, meant his application was rejected. And a few days later, ICE agents were at his door.
Jair Solis spent his first three days in a detention cell with 20 other men, no beds and one toilet.
“He will space out and think about it and start to cry,” Jared Solis son said.
“I’m still afraid of them,” the father said. “They broke my whole family and business. I lost my job and I can’t get any work now.”
The fear of deportation didn’t begin with last Monday’s announcement, said James M. Tilton, an English teacher at Eastside High School in Lancaster. The student body was 62.7% Hispanic or Latino in the 2018-19 school year, according to the California Department of Education.
“Trump’s inauguration is probably when it escalated to its current (state),” Tilton said Sunday. “I noticed a lot of my students were really upset after he won the election. … To be completely honest, it’s been around before that; Obama had more deportations than any president before him.”
Still, he said, “It’s hard for students who have friends and family members who are undocumented to focus on school while this is going on.”
Amid the fear, politicians on both side of the aisles agree that immigration reform is long overdue and that the situation on the border is not sustainable.
On Sunday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the GOP’s leader in the House of Representatives, tweeted his support for Trump’s characterization of an “immigration crisis” along the nation’s southern border.
“Every member of Congress should be required to go to the Southern border to see the crisis for themselves,” McCarthy tweeted.
In the meantime, immigrants around Southern California and elsewhere continue to make plans for the day that ICE picks up a family member.
“In the instance that my parents were to be deported, it would be my job my take care of my brother,” Diana said. “I would become his legal guardian. I would also have to contact a family friend who’s a lawyer to see what can be done.”
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