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Mayors brace for ICE raids: 'Frankly, we're in the dark'

Posted at 9:56 PM, Jul 12, 2019

Nine major United States cities are bracing for impact following reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will move forward with an operation targeting migrant families with court-ordered removals that was previously called off in June.

The mayors of the nine cities are speaking out as questions linger about whether city law enforcement will play a part in the raids that the administration has called a method of "deterrence."

The New York Times first reported on the raids, saying they are expected to take place in at least 10 cities, will occur "over multiple days" and will include "collateral" deportations in which "authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids."

ICE had planned to arrest and deport families with court-ordered removals in 10 cities in late June, according to a senior immigration official.

The raids were expected in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. A senior immigration official told CNN that the details of the ICE operation, currently slated to start on Sunday, will be largely the same as the one postponed last month.

The city of New Orleans, however, said on Twitter that it confirmed with ICE that "immigration enforcement will be temporarily suspended through the weekend" in areas of Louisiana and Mississippi impacted by tropical storm Barry.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Democratic Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot spoke at a news conference on Thursday , emphasizing the need to educate Chicagoans about their rights, while calling the raids "fear mongering."

"The most important thing that we can do is make sure that the groups that are on the ground that are educating people about their rights have the resources that they need to be successful," Lightfoot said. "We want to make sure that businesses, community organizations are supporting people."

"I hope that the President is going to use the power of his office to really forge a solution," Lightfoot added. "But this fear mongering, and making immigrants scapegoats and really disrupting families who are just here trying to live their life, that's not who we are or should be as Americans."

In June, Lightfoot directed the Chicago Police Department to not cooperate with ICE raids and ordered them to terminate ICE's access to CPD's databases related to federal immigration enforcement activities. Lightfoot reaffirmed her commitment to that directive Thursday, saying in a statement that "we will continue to object to any planned raids this weekend."

Chicago has previously declared itself a "sanctuary city," a broad term applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with, or involvement in, federal immigration enforcement actions.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

Republican Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday that the people of Miami "shouldn't be worried."

"The city of Miami is not coming after you," Suarez said on "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"Obviously, those who are violent criminals who potentially are not in this country legally, certainly, we don't want those people in our city. But aside from that, we, as a city, are a city of immigrants. ... You have nothing to fear from the city of Miami, that's for sure."

Suarez also said that the federal government has yet to communicate with the local Miami government or given any information on who they're targeting for the raids.

"Frankly, we're in the dark. I don't know how whatever the crisis is on the Southern border relates to the city of Miami," he said.

When asked if as a Republican, he supports the President's enacting of this policy, Suarez hedged.

"I'm a Republican, but I'm also an immigrant. Wanting to be an American is not a Republican or a Democratic issue."

When the raids were expected in June, Suarez characterized the impending ICE raids somewhat differently.

"We agree that criminals, like dangerous gang members who came here illegally, should be deported immediately," Suarez said in a statement. "As Mayor, I trust that only those individuals who represent a clear and present danger to our communities will be affected by this DHS policy."

Miami is not a sanctuary city, and the Florida Legislature passed a bill in May prohibiting so-called sanctuary cities in the state.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used the impending raids as an opportunity to amplify his calls to abolish ICE.

"This is a policy of fear and division -- and more proof that we need to abolish ICE," de Blasio said in a tweet Thursday . "Our city is stronger, safer and more prosperous than ever BECAUSE of our immigrant communities. We will do EVERYTHING we can to protect them."

De Blasio also shared information for New Yorkers on what to do if approached by federal immigration enforcement.

"If you or a loved one are approached by federal immigration enforcement in your home, on the street, or in public, remember: You have rights — and your city will help you fight for them."

In June, de Blasio also released a statement , sharing his support for his city's immigrant community.

"The Trump Administration's overbroad enforcement serves only to tear immigrant families apart, create an environment of fear, and divide us as a nation," de Blasio said in the statement. "That's not how we operate in New York City and we will always stand proudly alongside our immigrant brothers and sisters."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

The Democratic Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, told NPR on Thursday that "families are concerned and it has enhanced the anxiety level of people within my city."

"It impacts adversely public safety as well. Because we rely upon immigrants and others to report when crimes are being committed in their neighborhoods ... and people are shying away from public services."

"Houston Police Department is not ICE, we are not going to be participating with ICE on these type of raids," Turner said in the interview. "We are advising people that they do have due process rights. They do not have to answer the door. They do not have to let anybody into their homes."

"It's one thing if the focus of these raids were on people with criminal records, people who have committed violent crime, people who are part of gangs," Turner said. "But if we are simply talking about deporting people who have been here for quite some time that their crime is only coming here to seek a better way of living or to provide a better opportunity to their families, that's a different situation."

"The city of Houston is a welcoming city," he continued. "I don't think this does anything to deter people from coming here, and it doesn't enhance public safety right here in the city of Houston."

Turner struck a similar note in June when he said Houston "will continue to be a city that builds relationships, not walls."

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock echoed Suarez's claims that the city never received advance notice of the raids on Sunday.

"Denver is aware of recent reports that immigration enforcement would increase in the coming days, but Denver Police and the City of Denver would never receive advance notice of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity," the Democratic mayor tweeted.

"However, we want to reiterate that Denver stands with our immigrant and refugee families, that we do not support family separation or the round-up of immigrant families to spread fear in our community."

Hancock told CNN's Erin Burnett that the latest raids are a ploy to "play political games" and "distract" on the part of the President.

"The reality is we cannot trust the President's word, and once again he is using the lies and the inhumane acts of pursuing and putting our immigrants in a deep state of fear to play political games," Hancock said Thursday on "Erin Burnett OutFront."

He claimed "on pretty good authority" that ICE has been making calls to human services departments in the targeted cities asking for assistance in the event that "they are rounding up children."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed

The Democratic Mayor of San Francisco London Breed, who has previously sparred with local law enforcement over immigration policy , released a statement on Thursday about the expected raids.

"San Francisco is and always will be a sanctuary city that stands up for our immigrant residents. We want our entire community to be prepared and know their rights. We will continue to offer services for all immigrants," Breed said in the statement.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms told CNN's Poppy Harlow on Friday that Atlanta is "not complicit in what's happening."

"Our officers don't enforce immigration borders," Bottoms said. "We've closed our city detention centers to ICE because we don't want to be complicit in family separation."

Bottoms also discussed advice to immigrant families being disseminated across the city in both English and Spanish.

"What we are trying to do is get this messaging out at any opportunity we have that there is due process, there are numbers that you can call, there are lawyers standing at assistance, and most importantly stay vigilant," Bottoms said.

Asked if the raids were worth it if they removed criminals from the streets, Bottoms said they are not going to solve issues like crime.

"Our immigrant communities and people who come to this country seeking a better life aren't responsible for the crime we have in our cities and our country, it's just not true," Bottoms said. "So to the extent that the population thinks that this is going to address some issue -- there is no issue that we are addressing."