SAN JOSE — In a bold rebuke to President Donald Trump’s tough talk on sanctuary cities and widespread rumors that federal raids are imminent, city and community leaders said last week they are ready to unleash hundreds of volunteers to aid undocumented immigrants targeted with deportation.
With cell phone cameras rolling, community volunteers say they have already started documenting action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, protecting immigrant rights and providing support to those arrested as well as those left behind.
“We are prepared and you are not alone,” San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday, standing in front of a diverse group of city councilmembers, clergy and volunteers for Sacred Heart Community Service and PACT — People Acting in Community Together. “California refuses to become part of the president’s deportation machine.”
While volunteers are instructed not to intervene in any raid, Carrasco said that their efforts will provide a “wall of resistance against hate and the tactics of fear mongering that this administration has deployed to terrorize our most vulnerable.”
Carrasco’s comments came the same day the U.S. Department of Justice sent letters to 23 cities and counties — including San Francisco, Berkeley, Fremont and Watsonville in the Bay Area — demanding they produce documentation showing whether their local law enforcement is failing to share information with federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department threatened to subpoena those who don’t comply.
San Jose, a sanctuary city, wasn’t included in the new order because the city submitted its police policy to the Department of Justice last year, according to Zulma Maciel, director of the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. San Jose was the first city to sue the Trump administration over Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. which protects young immigrants, or “Dreamers,” brought here illegally as children.
At the City Hall news conference, Ernesto Perez, an undocumented immigrant, said he and his children are terrified they could get swept up in a federal raid.
“They do not understand the trauma and fear that we live with,” he said. “If you’re asking if I’m feeling scared, I do. If you’re asking if I feel frustrated, I do.”
Although federal authorities have said they are only targeting those with criminal records, Perez says that’s not the reality in San Jose’s immigrant neighborhoods.
“In the real life, they come in and they gather everybody,” he said. “They’re asking for papers from everybody.”
Santa Clara County has set up a “Rapid Response Network” that operates a 24-hour hotline for people to report ICE raids whenever they see signs of them. Doing so will activate volunteers — 600 have signed up and have been trained so far — that will inform residents of their rights and make sure due process is observed. The hotline phone number is 408-290-1144.
City Councilman Raul Peralez, the son of immigrants who represents San Jose’s diverse downtown area, said undocumented workers should have a plan in case they are the targets of raids at their workplace. They should provide emergency contacts to their employers, make sure ICE agents have signed warrants, and if ICE asks for specific people, “do not lie or hide that individual. Ask them to walk outside and immediately call their emergency contact.”
“Everyone needs to know that everyone has rights, regardless of immigration status,” Peralez said. ” We will not allow our immigrant communities to be torn apart without a fight.”
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