WATSONVILLE — A threat by President Trump to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants next week was likely an “empty threat,” but people living in the U.S. illegally should still do their best to stay on the right side of the law.
That’s according to immigration attorney Doug Keegan, director of the Santa Cruz County Immigration Project.
Keegan was referring to a tweet by Trump that agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin removing “the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
“They will be removed as fast as they come in,” Trump tweeted. “Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress. They must vote to get rid of the loopholes, and fix asylum! If so, Border Crisis will end quickly!”
But such a plan is unlikely to be carried out, Keegan said.
“There does not appear to be a plan in place, and there does not appear to be the resources for the plan he has described,” he said.
Still, immigrants – particularly those with previous deportation orders – should remain vigilant and cautious, and remember their constitutional right to remain silent and be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when talking to law enforcement officials, Keegan added.
“And we caution people to conduct themselves to minimize contact with law enforcement,” he said.
Keegan said that immigrants can expect support locally, including from churches, service organizations and city officials
“People should feel reassured that our community will not cooperate in any way with ICE agents coming to deport families.” Keegan said.
Adriana Melgoza, the Central Coast Coordinator for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, called Trump’s threat a “scare tactic” designed to dissuade immigrants from seeking services.
But anyone concerned about their immigration status – or that of their family members – should know that there are several organizations dedicated to helping them, Melgoza said.
“We always want to make sure our community does not live in fear,” she said. “They have rights regard of whether they are undocumented or not.”
Melgoza cautioned anyone being contacted by federal immigration officials not to open their door and not to sign anything. They should also be wary when leaving their residences, in case any ICE agents are lying in wait outside.
They should also be aware of who is questioning them, as some federal agents purport to be local police.
“We are here, and we value every member of our community,” she said.
Help for immigrants
• Watsonville Law Center 722-2845
• Santa Cruz County Immigration Project 724-5667
• UFW Foundation Salinas office 758-2611
Immigration rapid response hotlines- for ICE sightings. Will dispatch trained community members to document what’s happening and to support the people targeted.
• Santa Cruz County 239-4289
• Monterey County 643-5225