A month ago, President Donald Trump tweeted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would begin the process of removing “millions of illegal aliens” from the country.
Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people.......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
He has since doubled down on that promise, and as recently as last Friday he said raids would happen this past weekend.
Atlanta was on a short list of cities that would be targeted in these “ICE Raids.” GPB’s Ross Terrell has been following this story and sat down with All Things Considered host Rickey Bevington to talk about the residual impacts of the promised raids.
This conversation has been edited for content and clarity.
Bevington: Walk us through what has happened so far in Atlanta in regards to these raids.
Terrell: Well, not much. Immigrant communities are going on back to back weekends of having their livelihoods threatened and expecting raids to happen, but there have been no massive arrests, or an explicit increase in activity tied to any raids. In fact, Azadeh Shashahani who is with Project South, an immigrant's rights advocacy organization said it’s creating a very unsettling feeling among people who could be targeted.
“People are staying indoors because that seems to be the best thing to do if ICE tries to come to the community and try to arrest people,” she said.
And that means people are missing work, stocking up on groceries to stay indoors, and everyday tasks are becoming complicated by this
Bevington: It sounds like the raids are having as much of an emotional toll, as a potential physical one. How are organizations preparing for something that may not happen?
Terrell: It’s kind of like having an emergency plan in your house but for entire communities. The American Immigration Council estimated there were about 375,000 undocumented immigrants in Georgia. There are flyers being handed out informing people of their rights, letting them know ICE needs a warrant, signed by a judge, to enter their house. The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights has set up a hotline and has ICE Chasers. These are people who are stationed at apartment complexes alerting residents about any suspicious activity.
In fact, Atlanta Public Schools has even posted a notice on their website informing people of what to do in case of interacting with federal agents.
Bevington: Atlanta has an ICE field office downtown- Have officials there or any local sheriff’s departments said anything about the repeated promise of these raids?
Terrell: Well, the spokesperson for ICE in Atlanta made it clear that if there were any stings or plans for raids, they wouldn’t announce it. But at this point, they have no increased activity to report. And then you have Gwinnett County, which is the second largest county in the state by population, and they are part of the 287 G program that activates their sheriff’s deputies as ICE agents. They have given no indication that they are or will participate in any raids. In fact, they aren’t required to.
Bevington: And what about elected officials, have we heard anything from Georgia’s on this issue?
Terrell: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has been an outspoken critic. She has condemned the raids, and remember, Atlanta ended its contract with ICE last year. She has said multiple times there would be no cooperation from the city if any raids were to happen. But statewide elected officials have been relatively quiet on the issue.
That tone has been a little different when you look at the state’s D.C. representation. It has become a much more politicized back and forth. With Republicans, like Sen. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, saying there is a border crisis that needs to be dealt with and Democrats like Rep. Hank Johnson condemning the president for using ICE as a “tool of terrorism.”
Bevington: So, what’s next for these potentially targeted communities?
Terrell: We don’t know, but the resounding message has been organizations are prepared and ready to assist in case any raids do come to fruition.