Many people in Houston’s immigrant community are on edge following arrests last week in Austin and elsewhere.
Deportation rumors are fueling the fear.
“I finished high school here, I’m going to college here, I started a family here,” said Mexican immigrant Alejandra Badillo.
She says her 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Eva, is the primary reason she wants to stay in the U.S.
“I feel like I’m part of the U.S., you know?” Badillo said.
She’s working to update her immigration status as rumors spread in the wake of hundreds of arrests last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
Badillo says undocumented members of her own family now fear simple traffic stops.
“And if you don’t have a driver’s license or insurance, they’re going to immediately take you to a detention facility,” Badillo said. “And then from there, you’re going to get deported.”
Monday, ICE reiterated that recent operations targeted so-called public safety threats like convicted criminals and gang members.
They were not after undocumented immigrants, in general.
“We have not seen checkpoints here, at least confirmed checkpoints,” said Cesar Espinosa with advocacy group FIEL. “We have not seen big raids here in the Houston area.”
FIEL is distributing fliers with advice about what to do if confronted by officers.
Advice includes asking for a warrant.
“And that they don’t put themselves in more jeopardy by lying or misguiding police or immigration,” Espinosa said.
Badillo admits she’ll never choose to leave Houston on her own.
“We’re safe here,” Badillo said. “So why go back to where it’s not safe?”
FIEL heard rumors over the weekend that roundups were going down at apartment complexes and even flea markets. But, again, that wasn’t the case.