Rumors Of Seattle Raids Ratchet Up Fear Of Deportation
Immigrant advocates have scheduled several workshops in the Seattle area due to concerns about immigration raids. It comes on the heels of a federal operation to deport families from Central America.
One of the first workshops will happen Friday evening at Casa Latina. It’s a day-worker center in Seattle.
Trinidad Vidal comes here regularly for classes and to find work as a house cleaner. She says lately, the place has been abuzz about immigration activity in the area.
Vidal: “ICE was raiding people along the side of the road – that’s one thing I heard last Friday night.”
Immigration agents routinely work in the area, and deportation is always a concern for the undocumented workers, like Vidal. But now, it’s ratcheted up.
Vidal: “Now, they’re more worried about it because they believe they’re all going to be in deportation. And because one person is going to be targeted, they all believe they’re going to be targeted and sent back.”
Earlier this month, the feds announced a widespread operation to target undocumented families from Central America who arrived here after 2014. It’s part of the government’s effort to manage a record influx of migrants on the border, which continues to overwhelm federal agencies.
An enforcement sweep the first weekend of January led to arrests in other states but none in Washington, according to officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But Washington state has the tenth highest population of immigrants who could be targeted by this effort, according to court documents recently obtained by Syracuse University. The records show at least 348 women and children have been given final removal orders from an immigration court in Washington in the past 18 months. In 78 percent of these cases, the orders were issued to families without an attorney.
Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement say street operations in the Seattle area continue to focus only on enforcement priority cases. But still, fears and rumors are running wild.
Villalpando: "We have seen in the past how people really get into panic mode when they hear ICE is coming – la migra is coming."
That’s Maru Mora Villalpando with Latino Advocacy. She helped set up a toll-free hotline for people to report any activity. She says part of the goal is to filter and verify information so that rumors don't lead to panic.
Villalpando: "It’s been really successful. We’ve gotten many, many calls. And we have been answering calls at midnight, or as early as six in the morning."
So far, she says it appears ICE is doing business as usual and so-called raids are not happening here.
I’m Liz Jones, KUOW News.