While much of the media airtime in the past few weeks has been dedicated to Trump's ongoing legal battle with the US judicial system over his now halted immigration order temporarily blocking the entry of refugees and travelers from seven nations, a separate push to remove illegal immigrant from the US has quietly - or not so quietly - commenced in recent days, resulting in a deeply concerned, at times violent, response by some of the millions of illegal aliens residing in the US.
Some recent cases documented by the NYT include an Austin, Tex., undocumented women working in a laundromat, a day laborer and mechanic in Staten Island, and Savannah, Ga., undocumented restaurant workers. As the Times put it, "as reports of immigration raids and roundups have rocketed across Twitter, Facebook and texts around the country, undocumented immigrants, their lawyers and advocacy groups are bracing for the increased enforcement that President Trump has called for."
Overnight this sudden start in deportation activity prompted the Mexican government to urge its citizens living in the US to “keep in touch with its nearest consulate” and to make emergency contingency plans the day after at least one mother was deported, following President Donald Trump’s executive order. In a statement released Friday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said that the country’s consulates in the US have “intensified their work” to protect fellow nationals, and are anticipating “more severe immigration measures to be implemented by the authorities of this country, and possible violations to constitutional precepts during such operations and problems with due process,” according to a CNN translation.
The announcement was released one day after Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos became one of the first people to be prominently deported under Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. Garcia de Rayos, a 36-year-old mother of two US citizens, had lived in the US for the past 20 years. She was detained after going in for a routine check at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Phoenix.
ICE will remove illegal aliens convicted of felony offenses as ordered by an immigration judge.
— ICE (@ICEgov) February 9, 2017
Trump has promised to crack down on any illegal immigrants with criminal records, and Garcia de Rayos was a convicted felon. García was convicted of identity theft, a felony, to which she pled guilty after being arrested in 2009 with a false social security card, but had been checking in with immigration agents every six months and was allowed to stay in the country under an Obama administration policy that gave leniency to undocumented migrants who had entered the US as children. This week, when she reported to their Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix, she was detained and, after hours of protests by demonstrators, deported to Mexico.
ICE has since confirmed Garcia de Rayos’ deportation to Mexico, noting that her felony conviction was reviewed by “multiple levels of the immigration court system” before it was determined that she did not have “a legal basis to remain in the US.”
“ICE will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with felony convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts,” ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
— Martha Maurer (@MaurerMartha) February 9, 2017
Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the immigration office in the hopes of preventing Garcia de Rayos’ deportation, with one demonstrator going as far as chaining himself to the transport van.
Activist stand ground blocking ICE transport vehicle from taking Guadalupe García de Rayos. One is even holding onto the tire with his body pic.twitter.com/KSHzCbupuG
— Josue Kevin Duran (@josuekduran) February 9, 2017
— Antonia Mejia (@AntoniaMejiaTAZ) February 9, 2017
In a statement by the Mexican Consulate General in Nogales, Arizona, was also present for Garcia de Rayos’ deportation to ensure it was conducted in a "dignified and safe" manner. “The case involving Mrs. Garcia de Rayos illustrates a new reality for the Mexican community living in the United States, facing the most severe implementation of immigration control measures,” the statement says. "For this reason, the entire Mexican community is invited to take precautions and keep contact with its closest consulates to receive the necessary help to face this type of situation."
Mexico’s government recently allocated some $50 million to assist undocumented migrants facing deportation, and President Enrique Peña Nieto has instructed the country’s 50 consulates in the U.S. to defend migrants Luis Videgaray, the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary, said that Mexico was “going to focus the money on one fundamental objective, which is the defense of the rights of Mexicans. This means legal advice, informational campaigns, the hiring of lawyers where it is necessary,” according to the Washington Post.
Rayos was just the beginning.
As Reuters wrote overnight, federal immigration agents arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least four states this week in what officials on Friday called routine enforcement actions. The enforcement actions took place in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and surrounding areas, said David Marin, director of enforcement and removal for the Los Angeles field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"The fear coursing through immigrant homes and the native-born Americans who love immigrants as friends and family is palpable," Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in a statement. "Reports of raids in immigrant communities are a grave concern."
The agency did not release a total number of detainees. The Atlanta office, which covers three states, arrested 200 people, Bryan Cox, a spokesman for the office, said. The 161 arrests in the Los Angeles area were made in a region that included seven highly populated counties, Marin said.
Marin called the five-day operation an "enforcement surge."
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said late Thursday it has intensified efforts to protect Mexican migrants, “foreseeing the hardening of measures by immigration authorities in the U.S., as well as possible constitutional violations during raids or in due process.”
In a separate, and more concerning strategy meant to fight Trump's deportation order, the WSJ reports that influential Mexicans are pushing "an aggressive and perhaps risky strategy to fight a likely increase in deportations of their undocumented compatriots in the U.S.: jam U.S. immigration courts in hopes of causing the already overburdened system to break down." The proposal calls for ad campaigns advising migrants in the U.S. to take their cases to court and fight deportation if detained. “The backlog in the immigration system is tremendous,” said former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. The idea is to double or triple the backlog, “until [U.S. President Donald] Trump desists in this stupid idea,” he added.
While concerns over who will pay for Trump's border wall - which prompted the Mexican president to cancel a scheduled meeting with Donald Trump - have moderated in recent weeks, the issue of stepped-up deportations is moving to the forefront in bilateral relations that have fractured since Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s plans to deport undocumented Mexicans, renegotiate the countries’ free-trade deal, and build a border wall at Mexico’s expense have sparked a nationalist backlash south of the border.
It remains to be seen if some District US Court, perhaps in Seattle under the auspices of the 9th Circuit, will file another legal challenge to this aspect of Trump's immigration order.