Immigrants feel targeted as ICE denies increase in sweeps

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) - Immigration attorneys in Metro-Detroit say their offices are being flooded by phone calls. In cities like Pontiac people say they are seeing an increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers in their neighborhoods.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials deny any increase in investigations, saying it has been business as usual.

"ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending deportable foreign nationals,” said Khaalid Walls, ICE spokesperson.  "All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day. The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis.”

When you search on social media for the words "ICE warning", you find people in immigrant communities around the country sharing patrol information.  Some sightings in Pontiac neighborhoods have made communities feel targeted.

Blanca Mares just recently started carrying proof with her wherever she goes that she is here legally.

She works at Centro Multicultural La Famila, a social services organization that serves the Latino community in Pontiac.  She is hearing from many people who have seen patrols locally and believe the community is being targeted. They come in for services visibly distressed.

They have asked for help finding legal assistance ensuring their children will not be put in foster care should a parent be arrested before their paperwork is processed. The children are often there translating or getting counseling.

“They don’t know how to handle this. They are like, what do I do if they deport my mom or dad. Who am I going to be with?” said Mares.

Caterina Amaro, a Bloomfield Hills Attorney who specializes in immigration law, says she has seen a 25% increase in calls since President Donald Trump was elected.  The president campaigned with the promise he would crack down on illegal immigration.

"We have been advising how to do powers of attorney, guardianship. who can be in charge of a persons child should mom or dad not come home one day,” said Amaro.

She is advising people stay calm and do all they can to get legal status, even though it is an expensive, long and tedious process.
“You shouldn’t stop your process because you are scared. If you are scared, call someone to help you. Carry an attorney’s number in your wallet. And say, I need to speak to my attorney. Have the papers on you to prove you are in process,” said Amaro.

Amaro says it should be kept in mind people become illegal immigrants in many ways. Some are children. Some are victims.

"Maybe they were persecuted. They came here looking for a safe haven and didn’t know you had to file for asylum within a year,” she said.

Attorney Amaro says while she has seen an increase in calls, her practice has not seen yet an increase in prosecution.

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