Ohio Immigrant Community Braces for Mass Roundups Rumored for Next Week
Update 3:20PM 6/22/19 — President Trump stated that he will delay the ICE raids.
If it comes to fruition, President Donald Trump’s tweet warning of the removal of “millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States” has major implications for the local immigrant community. The announcement, later confirmed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Mark Morgan, has local immigrants, documented and otherwise, too afraid to leave their homes for basic needs.
Despite acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan’s urging to conduct a narrower, more targeted operation to detain 150 families, the so-called “family op,” scheduled to begin as early as Sunday, will target 2,000 families in 10 major U.S. cities whose members have received deportation orders. It is the first step toward Trump’s promise of millions of deportations, according to a report by the Washington Post.
The methods ICE agents will use to accomplish the task are uncertain, says Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Founder and Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, an organization that provides educational, leadership and economic resources for the state’s Latinx community. Due to fear of being detained during a traffic stop, at the doctor’s office, at work and anywhere else, many undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families (those who have members both documented and undocumented) are in fear of leaving their homes.
“It’s all a big guessing game right now. It’s more about creating that terror in the community — dropping hints,” Dahlberg says. “The President’s tweet that this is going to happen, ICE confirming it, then Congress shrugging their shoulders — It’s designed this way to keep everybody in fear of not knowing.”
HOLA Ohio has received multiple reports of people not leaving their homes, requesting groceries and basic needs be delivered, and not letting their children out to play. Their casework also involves families with children coping with cancer and developmental disabilities who need resources they’re now too scared to seek. The organization has recruited volunteers to drive individuals to commitments, and has had some offer their homes to undocumented people.
Dahlberg’s main question is how the detainment of families would be carried out — “will families be kept together or separated, and where will the children be kept?”
There’s no clear estimate of the number of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the city or state, as Ohio’s immigrant population has fluctuated with previous deportation efforts — including an ICE raid in Salem last year — that Dahlberg says have created a hostile environment for migrant workers. Dahlberg asserts that any raids will also affect immigrants who are documented, because they often have family members who are not.
Councilmember Elizabeth Brown, who in 2017 established the Columbus Families Together Fund, a program offering legal aid to immigrants and refugees, says the program would be stretched thin if Trump’s threats materialize.
“He threatens us — he’s always threatening cities that don’t want to hand over undocumented people,” Brown says. “It’s literally an act of aggression on us, and cities are not set up to fight their federal government.”
Right now, Dahlberg is urging concerned citizens to contact their state representatives.
“Demand answers. Congresspeople shouldn’t get a free pass on this just because people perceive they’re not doing anything. They still have to know what the sentiment is out there,” says Dahlberg. “‘What is the purpose of this plan? Why is it being implemented? How many resources are going into it?’ An operation like this is going to cost tens of millions of dollars.”