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Possible ICE raids put immigrants on alert

After postponing an immigration-enforcement operation late last month, the Trump administration plans to go ahead with the raids as soon as this weekend. The sweep is expected to be similar to others that authorities have done regularly since 2003 and often netted hundreds of arrests.

This one is different because President Donald Trump tweeted in June that it would be the start of an effort to deport millions of people who are in the country illegally. That's a near-impossibility given the limited resources of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It's also slightly unusual to target families — as opposed to immigrants with criminal histories — but not unprecedented.

Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said the raids instill fear in the immigrant community. 

“The president should be ashamed of himself for terrorizing immigrant communities across the country,” he said.

ICE is in charge of arresting and deporting immigrants who lack legal status.

One common method of finding people who are known to be in the country illegally is for local jails to hold those who have been arrested on crimes past their release date. That allows ICE to look into their status. These are known as "detainers," but they have become increasingly unpopular. Some local governments complain that detainers put their officials at legal risk and that local authorities should not be doing the work of federal authorities.

ICE also arrests people the old-fashioned way, by tracking them down and showing up at their homes or workplaces. But limited staff and resources constrain their ability to make multiple large-scale arrests at a time.

Gonzalez said that while there is “a lot of fear and confusion” in the immigrant community ahead of ICE raids, “people know their rights and how to assert them” and can prepare for the raids.

“They have a right to refuse to open the door and refuse to let ICE in if there is no warrant,” Gonzalez said. “They have the right to refuse to sign anything that ICE presents them with.”

Vanesa Sarazua, founder and executive director of the Gainesville-based Hispanic Alliance GA, said Georgia raids are expected to be concentrated in Atlanta rather than Gainesville. 

“These raids are focused on the people who have already a deportation notice, and we don’t expect any in Gainesville,” she said. 

She said the alliance also informs people that ICE needs to have a warrant signed by a judge.

But Sarazua said ultimately, immigrants should not have to live in fear, and the alliance wants to help them become ingrained in the community while also knowing their rights.  

“The reason we do the things we do is so that our community can keep leading normal lives and helping to contribute to the Hall County production and economy, and that they can also lead normal lives without any fear,” she said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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