Immigrant advocates remain vigilant after Trump delays raids

"We don’t trust him in any way,” said Marjorie Murillo, an immigrant advocate in Florida.
Image: A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2015.
Immigrant advocates said Saturday that they are staying vigilant after President Donald Trump delayed a plan to round up undocumented families and deport them. John Moore / Getty Images file

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By Suzanne Gamboa

MIAMI — Immigration activist LuzHilda Muñoz spit out her anger when she learned that President Donald Trump had just tweeted he was delaying planned immigration raids, a prospect that had sent fear through her community.

While glad about the reprieve, Muñoz said she was not convinced Trump's tweet on Saturday was true, and it did little to calm the anxiety she felt after hearing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would round up undocumented families in several U.S. cities starting Sunday. Trump said he would delay it for two weeks.

“It's just very infuriating to know he feels he has the right to f------ play with our lives,” said Muñoz, who runs a deportation defense program for immigrant advocacy group United We Dream.

Marjorie Murillo, a community liaison specialist for Miami Dade Public Schools, said going from hypervigilance to wait-and-see was like keeping up with a hurricane.

“It’s coming, maybe it will turn a little bit, stay on guard,” Murillo said. “We can’t ever let our guard down.”

Since the planned roundups became public knowledge on Friday, advocacy groups have been in rapid-response mode. They ratcheted up warning and reporting systems that they have developed to inform people to stay in their homes, not answer their doors and be aware of their rights.

Lawyers were told to be ready on standby to help arrestees, and volunteers offered to open their homes to targeted people so agents would not find them at home. Groups organized volunteers to drive people to work, children to school and families to grocery stores so they wouldn't have to worry about being pulled over.

Then came Trump's tweet that he was postponing the plan for two weeks. But advocates said they are not standing down.

“We don’t trust him in any way,” Murillo said. “I’ve been calling and sending messages everywhere that they are postponed, but where I live, parents and everyone, they are never safe.”

Richard Morales, director of immigration campaigns for Faith in Action, the largest faith-based network in the country, said his group told the 45 affiliates in 22 states to “stay vigilant.”

“I feel that he’s holding our families hostage,” Morales said. “People are afraid to go out. I’m fully expecting tomorrow that the persons that normally go out to church are not going to go out because they are afraid."

He said many affiliates are calling for guidance about what to do now. He reminds them that members have been training regularly on immigrants' rights and are prepared for whenever the raids might occur.

“I want to be clear, we are going to be ready tomorrow or in two weeks," Morales said. "We’ll be ready to respond.”

Murillo said people in immigrant communities have been on higher alert since Trump’s inauguration, but the planned raids escalated the anxiety.

“He’s making an announcement as if these deportations are not already happening," she said. "He’s saying if Democrats don’t do what I want them to do, deportations will start in two weeks. Deportations have been happening since he went into office.”

Muñoz and other advocates said they believe the roundup plan is being used by the administration as a tool to try to squeeze more money out of Congress for immigration enforcement agencies.

On Friday, Democrats in the House introduced a $4.5 billion emergency border supplemental funding bill that would give more money to Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to United We Dream.

It also includes money for Democratic priorities, such as medical services, transportation, legal services and other things, according to the House Appropriations Committee’s website. A full House vote was expected as soon as next week on the emergency funding bill. The Senate has its own version.

Murillo criticized Democrats for considering the additional enforcement funding, possibly as soon as next week.

“Every dollar they are giving to agencies is exactly creating these types of situations,” she said. “Every dollar they give to them is what is feeding these machines.”

Morales noted that Trump announced his re-election campaign this week in Orlando, Florida.

"He wants to be sure that his base is clear about what his stance is on immigration and on deportation and the wall," Morales said.

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