ICE agents plan massive immigration sweeps in Bay Area cities

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U.S. immigration officials are preparing to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented individuals in San Francisco and other Northern California cities as a response to California becoming a sanctuary state last year, according to a tip the San Francisco Chronicle received from an anonymous source Tuesday.

This information comes amid uncertainty about the tactics and motivations of immigration reform and policy. The San Francisco Chronicle also reported Wednesday that several Bay Area law enforcement agencies had not been told by federal officers of plans for major sweeps and did not plan to cooperate if any such sweep occurred.

Jennifer D. Elzea, press secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said in an email that she is unable to speculate about future enforcement actions of the agency.

Based on media accounts and individual reports, campus Chicano studies assistant professor Chris Zepeda-Millan said larger raids typically include arrests of a few hundred people. He added, however, that it is hard to contextualize how large a 1,500-person raid is because the federal government has not released comprehensive data on why, when and where these raids occur.

“We can understand this threat as of a piece with the recent targeting of immigrants’ rights activists who have either been served with notices to appear in immigration court, are in detention, or have already been deported,” Leti Volpp, a UC Berkeley law professor, said in an email.

For those who may be affected by the raid, Volpp recommends that they remain silent, ask to speak with a lawyer and not sign any documents before first speaking to a lawyer, among other things.

Berkeley Law Human Rights Center researcher Khaled Alrabe said in an email that the raids are more about politics than national security, crime or immigration policy.

“Even if we presume that raids are an effective strategy to crack down on immigration violations, which I have no reason to believe is true, there is no non-political explanation for why federal authorities are focusing their efforts on the Bay Area,” Alrabe said in an email.

Zepeda-Millan said raids are hard to prepare for because people do not find out about them until after they happen, and most activism against them has been ineffective, in his opinion.

According to Zepeda-Millan, the raids have the effect of making American society more dangerous, as immigrants become hesitant to call the police in criminal matters out of fear of deportation.

Zepeda-Millan said he believes that raids are one of the most ineffective tools for dealing with immigration issues and cost millions of dollars to execute.

“Conservatives should be up in arms saying this is a big waste of American tax dollars,” Zepeda-Millan said. “Assuming people in the Trump (administration) and ICE understand how ineffective this is … The only conclusion I could come to is that the sole goal of these raids is to create fear in immigrant communities.”

Kate Tinney is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @K_Tinney.