WNC Lawyers, activists play waiting game as ICE raids loom

Posted at 10:11 AM, Jul 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-13 12:11:32-04

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    ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Dozens of people gathered in downtown Asheville on Friday, standing against the federal government’s weekend plans. They’re protesting the situation at the U.S./Mexico border — specifically the detainment of asylum-seekers and children — and the planned weekend roundup of undocumented immigrants.

President Donald Trump said the nationwide immigration enforcement operation targeting people who are in the United States illegally will begin Sunday.

The long-anticipated ICE raids have immigration rights attorneys and activists scrambling to help the undocumented understand their rights if federal agents should come knocking.

Dozens of volunteer attorneys in Western North Carolina are waiting to see what happens and to respond to what the Trump administration has promised.

“They’re absolutely going to happen. There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And, of course, that isn’t what ICE will go after in this,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting director Ken Cuccinelli said.

Cuccinelli made it clear that federal agents will be working Sunday. He said they will target only undocumented immigrants with final removal orders — criminals — not family or friends.

“I think they don’t always detain the ‘bad immigrants.’ I think, sometimes, they end up detaining, deporting people that maybe were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Shoshana Fried, who is an attorney at Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville.

Part of her job is educating clients.

“They have constitutional rights just like U.S. Citizens, about the right to remain silent, the fact that nobody can enter their house without a judicial’s warrant, that kind of thing,” Fried said.

Emilio Vicente, an immigration activist/organizer and also a communications manager, has been providing resources to news media covering the ICE raids.

“It makes it very urgent and it makes it very personal. So, I myself am undocumented,” Vicente said.

Vicente said he puts himself in the public eye to put a face on the issue.

“We’re just like you,” Vicente said. “And, often times, the main difference is that we don’t have a nine-digit number, and that we weren’t lucky enough to be born in this country. That’s what makes us different.”

As for what happens come Sunday, immigration rights attorneys believe their phones will be ringing.

“We’re kind of all hands on deck,” Fried said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has ramped up its efforts as well. It has a 12-page “Know Your Rights” guide that explains what to do and what not to do in case of an encounter with federal agents.

The guide shows the issue goes beyond undocumented people from south of our border. It is printed in 13 languages for people around the world.

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