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In the months following President Trump’s January 25th executive order regarding immigration and border security, there has been a significant increase in Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and deportations. Within a span of three months, ICE arrested over 21,000 immigrants – including 5,441 with no criminal record. Mass deportation makes America less safe as it damages government-community relations, which are essential to ensuring healthy and safe communities.

ICE Raids Damage Community Relations 

In November, Trump said he would deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants who have criminal records. But, the arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal records continue to spike. This damages the trust built between local communities and law enforcement, especially when ICE agents regularly identify themselves as police. Feeling a sense of urgency, New Jersey’s chief justice urged ICE to quit stalking courthouses, warning that the practice could undermine the state’s justice system. California’s chief justice also condemned federal immigration agents, arguing that courthouses “should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.”

Undocumented immigrants are far less likely to report crime – whether as a victim or a witness – if they fear deportation. In fact, LAPD Detective Brent Hopkins said that “I’m losing my witnesses or my victims because they’re afraid that talking to me is going to lead to them getting deported.” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to deputize local law enforcement to carry out immigration laws. But, our safety depends on those who report crime. Immigrants cannot report crimes if the federal government pushes them into the shadows. Immigrant communities and local law enforcement must maintain an open line of communication.

Local and State Governments Must Protect Immigrants 

Sanctuary cities and states continue to expand across the country. For example, California Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) would prevent California law enforcement agencies from aiding in immigration enforcement. Modeled after California’s SB 54, Maryland’s legislature is moving forward with a bill known as the Trust Act, which would limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement. More states must consider introducing their own sanctuary bills modeled after California in order to offer greater protection for immigrants.

Governments are doing more to protect their immigrant populations. For example, Los Angeles has been vocal in protecting its immigrant community. Mayor Eric Garcetti has stated that local law enforcement will not carry out federal immigration laws. The Seattle City Council recently approved a$1 million legal defense fund for immigrants. Los Angeles city and county officials also created a $10 million legal fund for its immigrant population. Immigrants in immigration court do not have a right to government-appointed counsel. Cities and states across the country should consider securing a legal defense fund for their immigrants as well.

How You Can Stand Up for Immigrants 

The Trump Administration is speeding up the process to establish a stronger deportation force. Department of Homeland Security documents indicate a huge reorganization in the Customs and Border Patrol hiring methods, making it easier for the deportation force to expand.

Immigrants families are in constant fear of deportation and experience stress and anxiety. At the local level, this should prompt more houses of worships across the country to become safe havens for those who have fled persecution for a safe haven in America. Congregations can work to advocate for undocumented immigrants by becoming a sanctuary; connecting immigrants to legal and humanitarian aid.

Know your rights workshops need to be held in order to inform immigrant communities of their rights when encountering immigration and border agents. Organizations – such as The Center for Popular Democracy, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and United We Dream – are working tirelessly to protect undocumented immigrants. Consider volunteering your time for them or donating to support them.