Immigrant advocates in Minnesota are trying to allay the concerns of undocumented residents who fear deportation as federal authorities plan to execute immigration raids this weekend in cities across the country.
The Twin Cities area has not been named as a target of the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but supporters of immigrants here have sprung into action to spread information about immigrants’ rights and provide refuge for people who may be detained.
“I think people are in constant fear,” said Catalina Morales, a lead organizer with the faith-based coalition Isaiah.
Morales noted that, aside from the raids, local ICE officials can still deport people; she said she’s received alerts about immigrants getting picked up in recent days. Isaiah is creating a list of churches that will be open over the weekend if immigrants need a place to stay.
Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for ICE in Bloomington, said the agency would not offer details related to enforcement operations “due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.” The Trump administration has said the raids will target thousands of immigrants who have final deportation orders.
“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” Neudauer said in a statement.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said police would not cooperate with ICE raids, and city officials are prohibited from taking any action to detect or apprehend people based solely on their immigration status. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs posted information on the city website saying it was working closely with immigration legal service partners to connect people to legal clinics and “know your rights” presentations.
“There is a great hunger for information, specifically ‘know your rights’ information,” said Michelle Rivero, director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
After Trump began talking about ICE raids several weeks ago, the ACLU of Minnesota published a post on its website titled “What to do if ICE comes knocking,” detailing immigrants’ rights and organizations that provide legal services.
For example, the organization advises immigrants that they have the right to remain silent and do not have to open the door unless ICE shows a judicial search or arrest warrant naming a person in the home. It also says they do not have to sign anything without first speaking to a lawyer.
Julio Zelaya, an ACLU organizer in southern Minnesota, said organizations are not just trying to respond to raids, but also to people’s perceptions of what immigration enforcement is doing.
“Rumors might circulate that there is a raid occurring, and that information kind of spreads like wildfire, creating a chaos in some spaces,” Zelaya said.
In addition to preparing a legal response, he said the ACLU is working closely with church leaders and others to establish spaces where immigrant communities can find refuge and get information. Some people are afraid to go outside or call the police, according to Zelaya.
“This is the president that’s saying, ‘We’re coming after you’ and especially in places like southern Minnesota that had immigrant communities for decades, this cuts much more personally and deeply,” he said.
Concern at schools
The renewed national rhetoric around deportation has also stirred angst and fear in many school communities across the state. Minneapolis Public Schools leaders said they have seen an increased concern from students, staff and families around this issue and have been working to console them.
When Trump took office, Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts passed a resolution in support of their students and families, stressing that anyone affiliated with the school will not inquire about their immigration status and will not assist ICE in their deportation efforts. Minneapolis has reaffirmed that message at least twice, with Superintendent Ed Graff vowing at a recent school board meeting that he will do everything he can to keep students safe.
“We have a responsibility to create a safe and welcoming environment for diverse staff and all of our learners,” Graff said. “The recent rhetoric around deportations creates emotional stress, fear for many of our innocent young people who are trying to better their lives in our schools as well as our staff members whose families are affected.”
At El Colegio High School in south Minneapolis, where many of the students have family members who are undocumented, staff and the school community have been gearing up for ICE raids since Trump took office.
The school’s executive director, Norma Garcés, said she invites immigration attorneys, community leaders and elected officials to the school, which is also a community center, to teach families about their rights.
“The government keeps traumatizing children,” Garcés said. “Separation of families is one of the biggest traumas that you can put in a child and it’s really hard to recover from it.”
Staff writers Faiza Mahamud and Miguel Otárola contributed to this report.