Immigration raids conducted by the Trump administration are expected in major US cities on Sunday, a prospect that has sparked vigils, protests, anger and fear.
On Saturday night, it was reported that raids had been attempted in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Ice, had not succeeded in rounding up anyone in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Harlem.
Like many other mayors the Democrat, who is running for the presidential nomination, has said his city will not cooperate with Ice.
The raids are expected to target roughly 2,000 migrants in the US illegally but the prospect has rippled terror through broad swaths of migrant communities.
As the sun rose on Atlanta on Sunday, advocacy groups and legal observers kept an eye on the streets. Like most other weekend mornings, not much was happening. One lawyer told the Guardian Ice agents were in Clayton county, just south of the city, at 5am. They had not heard more.
Members of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights met at its offices north of Atlanta, near the city’s migrant corridor, hoping to act as “Ice watchers” and stream operations live on social media.
Mario Guevara, an immigration reporter for Mundo Hispanico with more than 300,000 followers on Facebook, spent the morning roaming the same corridor. Lone cars passed him every so often and he found only one undocumented woman, selling tamales. In her few months in Atlanta, he said she told him, she had never seen Ice agents in the area. She intended to work as usual, regardless of “rumors” of a raid.
A legal observer with Project South told the Guardian: “No news is good news.”
In the past few days, vigils have been held from Los Angeles to as far afield as Berlin, as a broad coalition of progressive groups have condemned the raids.
“This administration’s deliberate terrorizing of immigrant families and communities grows worse every day,” Mary Bauer, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, told the Guardian.
“The continued mistreatment of children held in detention facilities, the attacks on our asylum system, and the assaults on immigrant communities through threatened raids show that this administration’s priority is terrorizing communities and not solving our nation’s immigration problems.”
Undocumented migrants described to the Guardian plans to buy groceries, in anticipation of locking themselves indoors. Businesses which rely on migrant labor reported employees staying home from work.
The planned law enforcement actions come on the heels of congressional testimony about “horrifying” conditions inside migrant detention facilities at the southern border, which have been described as overcrowded, filthy and under-resourced.
Twenty-four immigrants have died in Ice custody during the Trump administration.
On Friday, reporters with Vice-President Mike Pence visited a border station in McAllen, Texas, and described overcrowded conditions in which men were held in cages in “sweltering” heat where the “stench was horrendous”.
Pence described the conditions as “tough stuff”.
Because Ice facilities are operating with limited capacity, immigration officials had publicly floated the idea of using hotels to hold those seized following the raids.
That prompted one chain, Marriott, to say it would not allow its buildings to be used as detention centers for the federal government. Ice officials responded that they would be forced to separate families if they lack capacity.
On Saturday, in Tacoma near Seattle, police said a man armed with a rifle was shot dead after he threw incendiary devices at a migrant detention center run privately for the federal Department of Homeland Security.
The shooting took place about six hours after a peaceful rally in front of the center, a police spokesman said. A rally planned for Saturday was moved.
The Tacoma Northwest Detention Center holds migrants pending deportation and has also held parents separated from children under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
A friend of the dead man said she thought he wanted to provoke a fatal conflict, the Seattle Times reported, and described him as an anarchist and anti-fascist.
In Chicago on Saturday, around 5,000 protesters marched against Trump’s immigration policies, belting chants critical of the president and Ice. Police said the protest was peaceful and there were no arrests. Chicago is a target city.
Demonstrations were held in other cities including Phoenix, which is not expected to be raided. On Friday night, dozens of protesters blocked a downtown street and disrupted light rail traffic. Police arrested 16.
Trump first said his administration would conduct nationwide raids in June, only to postpone the operation. Now they are scheduled to go ahead with weeks of prior notice.
Condemnation has come from a broad slate of progressive organizations, including groups typically focused on issues outside the immigration debate.
Lights for Liberty vigils protesting against the raids were attended by the American Teachers Federation and sponsored by the Women’s March. Youth climate activists with the Sunrise Movement Boston attended a vigil protesting against “inhumane conditions” in detention centers they called “concentration camps”.
Bridgette Gomez, director of strategic partnerships at Planned Parenthood, the largest network of not-for-profit reproductive health clinics in the US, said: “These raids are a cruel, racist and dangerous extension of the Trump-Pence administration’s already horrifying policies.
“As a healthcare provider, we at Planned Parenthood condemn immigration raids that have a dangerous chilling effect on immigrants seeking care that they need and deserve.”