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Migrants in fear as US raids reportedly begin

Migrants in fear as US raids reportedly begin

NEW YORK: Thousands of undocumented immigrants waited in uncertainty Sunday, fearful of nationwide raids that President Donald Trump said would lead to a wave of expulsions.

Even as news media said the raids were underway, Trump added to the divisive debate on migration, suggesting on Twitter that some Democratic women Congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of origin.

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were expected to conduct raids in at least 10 major cities, with plans to arrest about 2,000 undocumented migrants who entered the United States recently.

Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, would not confirm any operational details on Sunday but defended the need for the raids.

“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered to be removed by an immigration judge,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

“We are merely executing those judges’ orders.”

The scope of the operation appears far more modest than the “millions” Trump had promised would be detained and expelled when he first mentioned the raids last month.

But that has not eased the anguish felt by those who might be targeted.

Adding to their concerns were reports that ICE agents are prepared to scoop up not just those named in removal orders but also other undocumented migrants whom agents may come upon incidentally.

That, potentially, could include some migrants who have been in the country for years, with homes, jobs and children who are US citizens.

– ‘It’s traumatizing’ –

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Local and state officials have called on the federal government to show restraint in the raids. Several accused Trump of using the operation mainly for political gain.

“This uncertainty, this fear, is wreaking havoc,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on CNN. “It’s traumatizing people.”

Trump has said it would be unfair to the many people waiting to enter the country legally if others could simply cross the border to gain the privileges of American life.

On Friday he insisted that “most mayors” want the raids because “they don’t want to have crimes in their cities” — repeating his frequent but incorrect assertion that migrants are more likely to be criminals than native-born Americans.

But New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Sunday that the millions of undocumented people in the US are “core to our economy and part of our community,” and he accused Trump of using the raids “to foment division as a political campaign.”

“What he’s doing with our ICE agents is not about securing our borders. It is an electoral effort by President Trump.”

Like many other city officials, de Blasio has said the aggressive roundup could intimidate migrants, making them less likely in future to cooperate with local police, at the expense of public safety.

Some city officials and pro-migrant groups have sought to educate those who might be targeted on their rights in the event of a raid.

If “someone comes to your door,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms said on CNN, “please don’t open the door unless they have a warrant.”

–  ‘Crime infested places’ –

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Trump drew an angry reaction from Democrats on Sunday by saying on Twitter that unnamed progressive Congresswomen should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

It echoed his reported reference last year to “shithole” countries in Africa.

The assistant House speaker, Democrat Ben Ray Lujan, immediately denounced it as “a racist tweet” against American citizens.

The political parties have already been wrangling over the conditions facing migrants in badly overcrowded federal detention centers — which could see an additional influx as they process those picked up in raids.

Reporters and lawmakers have described detention centers where people sleep on concrete floors — if they can find room to do so — lack ready access to drinking water and live in unhygienic conditions.

In dozens of recent protests across the country, demonstrators have demanded the closing of the overcrowded centers and opposed the planned raids.

US officials have acknowledged the overcrowding but insisted they are doing their best to provide decent conditions.

The United States has been struggling for more than a year with the migration crisis on its southern border, as tens of thousands of people stream into the US each month, mostly from Central American countries riven by violence and poverty.

The number of undocumented arrivals totaled more than 100,000 last month — down 28 percent from May but still a “full-blown emergency,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019