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Obama Administration Raids Stoking Fear Throughout Entire Immigrant Community

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Frank Sharry: “The way the Obama Administration is handling this is a huge mistake, from a policy, moral, and political perspective.”

New York Times article by Liz Robbins, titled “Rumors of Immigration Raids Stoke Fear in New York,” captures how the Obama Administration’s home raids are causing panic and fear in the entire immigrant community:

 “Across the region, immigrants who are undocumented and even those who have legal status have been paralyzed by fear. People stayed home from work or refused to leave the house even to buy milk. Some kept their children home from school or stayed in other people’s homes, afraid that a raid could happen anywhere, anytime.

On Tuesday morning at El Centro’s day laborer hiring center, only four men appeared for work; usually there would be 10 or 12. Ligia Guallpa, the executive director at the Worker’s Justice Project in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, which also runs a hiring center, reported that just three out of 10 day laborers had shown up. Araceli said she had stayed home from her English class that day, and only two of the usual 15 students had attended.

‘For two days I didn’t go out; I just didn’t leave the house,’ said Joao, a day laborer on Staten Island who gave only his nickname. He said his family called him to check on him, and he responded with dark humor. ‘Don’t worry,’ he told them, ‘I’m hiding under the bed.’

…The Know Your Rights meeting on Tuesday night was the first of many such sessions scheduled across the region this week. There, a lawyer warned the worried attendees to be careful. Even if an immigration officer was looking for one person, that officer could also make ‘collateral arrests.’

…The level of panic in the region, lawyers said, has not been seen for eight years — since the government’s Operation Return to Sender program sent paramilitary-type raids to immigrants’ homes.

…At the offices of Central American Legal Assistance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Carlos Chavez, a receptionist, said on Tuesday that he had been fielding frantic phone calls for the last two days almost nonstop.

One client, Maria, a 22-year-old from Ecuador who asked to be identified by only her given name, called even though she was granted asylum several months ago.

But her brother and sister-in-law are undocumented. In an interview at her Brooklyn apartment, Maria said in Spanish that both had stayed home from work, her sister-in-law from a recycling factory and her brother from driving a taxi. Her brother, she said, had heard ‘that the police are stopping drivers and asking for papers.’

Maria reluctantly opened her door for reporters, only after asking for identification. Her sister-in-law flashed a look of terror.

‘We are afraid to go out,’ Maria said. ‘The fear,’ she added, patting her chest, ‘has affected my heart.’”

Also read the personal reflections of America’s Voice staffer Juan Escalante, who shares how the raids have spread fear in his own family in a blog post titled, “Family, Fear, and Immigration”:

“My parents are deportable from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. This singular realization is the one that causes them to worry as they drive to work in the mornings, and the same one that keeps them up at night wondering if immigration agents are after them.

Like many immigrant families out there, my parents have good reason to be scared. They do not qualify for President Obama’s stalled DAPA program, the one that would shield parents of U.S. Citizen and legal permanent residents from deportation, and they are constantly showered by insults and attacks from Republicans in the media.

Throughout the years, I have often tell my parents to look on the bright side – that at least President Obama got DACA done, so that my brothers and I could attempt to live a semi-normal life.

But by announcing the raids of homes of immigrant families, President Obama undermines all of my efforts to keep my family hopeful and strong. A cold slap in the face, reminding immigrants that they can be forcibly removed from their homes without warning – and consequently sent to the dangers they fled in their home country…”

Recognizing the fear spreading in immigrant communities, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers and candidates are publicly condemning the raids, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA),  2016 Senate candidate Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) among the new voices condemning the Administration’s actions (see additional lawmaker statements and reactions on our website).  Additionally, Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have both condemned the raids and now have come out with specific policy alternatives to the raids, while Hillary Clinton’s campaign says the government should not be conducting large-scale raids.  We expect the issue to continue to percolate on the campaign trail in the days and weeks ahead.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Raids that terrorize immigrant communities should be halted immediately.  Given the levels of violence in the communities Central Americans have fled, this should be treated as a refugee-like situation, not as an immigration enforcement priority.  The way the Obama Administration is handling this is a huge mistake, from a policy, moral, and political perspective.  Until now, the 2016 cycle has helped to clarify the immigration distinctions between the two parties.  The raids threaten to blur some of those important distinctions as we head into an election year.”