HOUSTON — Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the U.S. deportation raids expected to begin this weekend are causing fear in Houston’s immigrant community and “creating havoc.”
During an interview Thursday with CNN’s Don Lemon, Acevedo explained how children approach him at forums telling him they’re afraid to go school and come home to find their parents are gone.
“When we make announcements that we are rounding up a million people, it creates havoc and pushes people in darkness,” Acevedo said during the interview.
ICE raids targeting immigrant families are expected to begin this weekend after it was postponed last month by President Donald Trump, according to two administration officials and immigrant activists.
The operation would target people with final orders of removal, including families whose immigration cases had been fast-tracked by judges in 10 major cities, including Houston.
Chief Acevedo said his agency works closely with Homeland Security, and their focus is going after hardcore criminals.
“There are a lot of them out there and we’re just hopeful we don’t create greater problems for society by separating families,” Acevedo told Lemon. “I think we should be chasing crooks, not cooks.”
Acevedo said he is hopeful ICE will do what local law enforcement does and focus on dangerous people.
On Friday, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez expressed his opinion on ICE raids via his Twitter and said he does not support the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
"The focus should always be on clear and immediate safety threats," Gonzalez tweeted. "Not others who are not threats."
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also released a statement on the potential raids:
"As we anticipate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on immigrant families starting Sunday, I encourage everyone to know their rights when interacting with ICE agents. Every person in our community has the right to due process. You are not required to answer the door if the agent can't present a warrant, which can be shown to you through a window or slipped under a door. Once you open the door, agents can search your home and make arrests -- even of people not listed on the warrant.
"I know this can be an incredibly stressful time for our community, and I would encourage anyone with questions to call the Houston Immigrants' Rights Hotline: 1-833-HOU-IMMI (468-4664), which will be staffed on Sunday. You will be connected with an attorney free of charge, and if no one is available, your call will be returned within 24 hours.
"These raids seek to subvert our sense of community by putting the very heart of Harris County -- our diversity -- in the crosshairs of a shameful political maneuver. When I visited an adult detention center in Livingston recently, I witnessed first-hand the effects of the White House criminalizing the American Dream, as immigrants seeking asylum languished in a disorganized, demoralizing purgatory. Basic human rights should not be contingent on a set of documents. We will continue to support and advocate for the safety, security, and dignity of all Harris County residents.
"We received no notice from any governmental agency regarding this operation, and we will continue to work with community and government leaders to seek answers and ensure that community members have access to the right information and resources. My office will not assist in any raids and will continue to advocate for reforms, while also exploring everything we can do at the county to support legal representation work or otherwise try to bring about better outcomes for those in our community who come into contact with this deeply flawed system."
KHOU 11 reached out to ICE for a comment regarding this weekend’s scheduled targeted enforcement operations. They released the following statement:
"Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations. As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. In fact, 90 percent of aliens arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations component in FY2018 had either a criminal conviction(s), pending criminal charge(s), were an ICE fugitive, or illegally reentered the country after previously being removed. However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States."
Andrea Guttin is the legal director for Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative. She said there is growing fear as to who will be targeted and when.
“I’m heartbroken,” Guttin said. “I speak to teachers who say that they have elementary school kids who walk around with a family preparedness plan with numbers to call in case they go home and their parents aren’t there anymore.”
Guttin said chances of getting picked up are slim, but people should know their rights. If you are afraid that your family or someone in your community will be picked up in a raid, Guttin said it is important to remember three things.
She said people should not open the door to ICE if they don’t have a warrant signed by a judge.
In addition, you have the right to remain silent and if a family member has been arrested or has questions about how to protect themselves, call HILSC at 1.833.468.4664.
Guttin said people can leave a message and they’ll call back.
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