Lubbock, TX - A Department of Homeland Security effort over the past week to undocumented immigrants in the United States resulted in the arrests of over 640 people from coast to coast. While immigration attorneys aren't aware of any such raids in Lubbock during 2017, they said the presence of raids around the country has undocumented Lubbock residents calling in with concerns.
The raids in the past week occurred in many different states including Georgia, New York, California, Texas, and Illinois among others.
The arrests upset many immigrant advocates, who expressed concern that ICE changed it's deportation efforts under the Trump presidency.
"Everyone is afraid of the raids, they are thinking [Immigration and Customs Enforcement is] going to go knock on their doors and deport them," said Paola Ledesma, an immigration attorney in Lubbock. "Even people who have been here for ten to fifteen years or have no criminal record, they're thinking, '[ICE] is going to come and get me.'"
Ledesma is one of several Lubbock attorneys experiencing a high volume of calls as a result of concerns over these federal raids.
"There's been an uptick in people coming and asking me, 'What do I do if ICE shows up at my house for example? And what kinds of things do I need to have in place in case I'm apprehended by immigration officers?' said David Strange, an immigration attorney and managing attorney at Whittenburg Law.
Strange explained that the recent raids are not solely a product of President Trump's hard stance on immigration.
"These raids were not planned under the Trump administration, there's no way that could have been done in a matter of two or three weeks, these raids were planned under the Obama administration, that's pretty clear," Strange said. "Nevertheless the raids were conducted under the Trump administration and that matches up with what [Trump] said, he's gonna put priorities on people with criminal records and people with immigration violations in their records."
Strange explained that for his clients who express concerns about the increased enforcement, he works with them to find relief options within the law they are eligible for.
"If it's a person we can't help immediately, in other words there's no immediate relief I tell them to just continue on as they have always been," Strange said. "It's your decision, if you elect to stay here unlawfully, that's your choice, but everybody knows what [ICE's] job is."
He added that some of his clients have been asking him whether they should get a Power of Attorney in light of the recent raids, he advises them against doing so.
"Immigration is not going to take someone away from their house and leave minor children unattended, but giving power of attorney to someone else may jeopardize you and may put you a disadvantage, you don't need to do that," he said.
He explained that while the Obama administration wasn't enforcing immigration as strictly, he's seeing more enforcement under the Trump administration. Strange said he noticed the change with enforcement in Lubbock right away during Trump's presidency.
Ledesma acknowledged that while there have not been any major raids in Lubbock under the President Trump's term in office, ICE and Homeland Security are certainly still at work in the Hub City.
"I've been getting calls from people who said, 'My husband, my son is detained,' obviously that's always been the case, ICE and Border Patrol Office, they are always active," she said.
Ledeesma noted that Trump's policies and rhetoric are focused on targeting undocumented individuals with criminal records. She advises her clients not to panic and continue their lives as they usually would.
"I tell them to be calm and try to stay under the radar," She said. "Try not to commit any crimes, but obviously we don't know what's going to happen with these executive orders, with the ICE raids."
She tells her clients to keep filing their taxes, going to work, traveling, and doing everything else they would normally do.
Ledesma also helps her clients to look into what relief options they might be eligible for. Despite uncertainty over some portions of immigration policy, she encourages clients to file for relief if they can.
"I think that now is the time to fight for any relief you might have, if you are married to a U.S. citizen. Or if you have a son or daughter who is over 21 or was born in the U.S.," she said.
But she acknowledged that new policies from the legislature or the Trump administration could change immigration logistics again, so she encourages all her clients to stay up-to-date on the news about immigration policy.
"Those people who have no status are a bit nervous," added David Strange. "I tell those people that Donald Trump says that he wants to build a wall, but he also says right in the middle of that wall he wants to have a great big door, we'll see. There might be a silver lining in the cloud in the forms of possible immigration reform, that didn't happen in the Obama Administration. "
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