Protesters are gathering in major U.S. cities in response to a series of deportation raids conducted in at least six states this week that sowed widespread fear and uncertainty throughout the immigrant community.
On Thursday, in what appeared to the Trump administration’s first major effort to crack down on undocumented immigrants, federal immigration authorities arrested hundreds of people in their workplaces and homes.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents say this week’s actions were simply routine “surge operations” focused on detaining immigrants with criminal convictions. But immigrant advocates told ThinkProgress that the sweeping raids did not appear to be routine, and that they targeted many people who don’t have criminal backgrounds.
There have been some reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in largely immigrant communities, asking residents to present their papers. “People are panicking,” Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, told the Washington Post. “People are really, really scared.”
In response, crowds of protesters who oppose the raids — led mainly by undocumented immigrants — took to the streets of New York City on Friday night. Organizers said the demonstration attracted an estimated 1,000 people and shut down some of the city streets.
— Javier H. Valdes (@javierhvaldes) February 10, 2017
— Tish James (@TishJames) February 11, 2017
— NY Communities (@nychange) February 10, 2017
A group of about 100 people also gathered outside ICE headquarters in Lower Manhattan, saying they wanted to send a direct message to Donald Trump about his harsh immigration policies.
Other protests erupted this week in Los Angeles, where people assembled in front of a federal detention center downtown. Demonstrators blocked the intersection by the detention center while chanting, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” and “ICE out of LA.”
— Chris Gierowski (@tepall14) February 10, 2017
In Austin, demonstrators gathered at a corner where a man was detained by ICE agents earlier on Friday. Declaring that “immigration is a human right,” they plan to return to the same spot on Saturday to continue the protest.
This marks the third straight weekend of massive protests against President Donald Trump and his policies — a swelling protest movement that has plagued his new administration.
The day after Trump took office, millions of people across the United States and around the world joined Women’s March protests to take a stand against his presidency. The following weekend, after Trump signed an executive order blocking refugee resettlement and limiting migration from seven Muslim-majority countries, there were huge demonstrations at airports.
Although ICE has stressed this week’s raids were not directly tied to Trump, the Trump administration has already taken steps to get harsher on immigration policy that could be empowering the agency to step up its enforcement. Just a few days after being sworn in as president, Trump signed an executive order that widens the pool of immigrants considered to be top priority for detention and deportation, essentially expanding ICE officials’ power to conduct aggressive deportation raids.