Immigration advocates and lawyers have ramped up efforts to combat widespread raids threatened by the Trump administration by sharing information with immigrant communities about their rights.
The raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement scheduled to begin Sunday are set to target about 2,000 undocumented families in major cities across the United States, officials told NBC News. The raids were originally planned to take place three weeks ago but were postponed.
Many advocacy groups and some Democratic lawmakers have responded by sharing information, both in person and on social media, to immigrants in multiple languages, informing them of their rights and what to expect should the raids be carried about.
“People should understand that they have rights regardless of their immigration status,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said.
The material includes videos and social media toolkits covering what to do if an ICE agent shows up at their homes.
“They do not need do let an ICE agent into their home unless there’s a judicial warrant and rarely does ICE have a judicial warrant,” Gelernt said, adding that ICE usually has its own administrative warrants.
“We’re very concerned about how the raids will be carried out,” he said, adding the ACLU was talking to other groups and private law firms about monitoring the raids “to make sure excessive force is not being used or they’re not being conducted unconstitutionally. Families could be separated.”
The ACLU is also part of a pre-emptive lawsuit filed Thursday in New York in response to the planned raids. The lawsuit argued that “constitutional due process requires the government to bring these families and children before an immigration judge so they can have a fair day in court before they face deportation,” according to a statement from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The lawsuit is asking for families ordered deported because they did not appear in court to be given a hearing before an immigration judge to determine if their order of removal should be rescinded. The suit said error and “widespread failures” in notifying families of their court dates could have contributed to their absence in court. Such errors include notices to appear in court sent to wrong addresses or receiving a notice just before a hearing or even after a hearing has taken place, the lawsuit said.
“The Trump administration’s threats against immigrants run roughshod over basic fairness and due process,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in the statement. “For the many families who came here as refugees fleeing violence, deportation is a death threat. We will fight to ensure no one faces this kind of peril without having their case considered in court.”
New York City Mayor and 2020 Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC Thursday that he wanted “to get the truth out to people” regarding the potential raids. He said New Yorkers could call 311 to find out information about their rights.
“We tell people their rights, we protect them,” he said, adding that the city also provides legal assistance to families who may be impacted by the raids.
“First it starts with trying to take away the fear and say we have your back, we’re going to give you real information,” he said. “Don’t believe the rumors, call a specific hotline, find out what’s really going on.”
Melissa Chua, associate director of immigrant protection at the New York Legal Assistance Group, said the group was handing out informational flyers and will be targeting families with outstanding orders of removal, which will reportedly be targeted in the raids.
“We’re reaching out to any families in the area that we know may be at risk,” she said.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which is hosting a town hall with Democratic presidential candidates in Milwaukee said Thursday the 90-year-old Latino civil rights group will have legal teams in place in various locations to help people who may be arrested in the raids.
Meanwhile, other groups shared resources for lawyers looking to help immigrants who might be affected by the raids and lists of local raid response hotlines for the cities that may be targeted.
The cities that were previously named as targets of the raids were Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco, but a source told NBC News that two of those cities may change.
Last month, President Donald Trump tweeted that ICE would soon deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants.
Trump later said he would delay the mass raids “at the request of Democrats” so that Congress could work out a compromise to an immigration policy, a deal that has so far eluded Trump. Officials told NBC News the delay was due in part because details of the plan had leaked to the media.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said on FOX Business Network Thursday “the men and women of ICE are committed to doing their job” and that it was “really unfortunate that we’ve reached the point where them going about their business” is “somehow news.”
An ICE spokesperson said in a statement that “due to law enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security” of its personnel, it would not offer specific details on enforcement operations.
“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” ICE said in the statement.
“However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, prominent Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have lambasted the planned raids and shared information from advocacy organizations about immigrant rights.
Pelosi read from a “know your rights” flyer at her weekly press conference Thursday and said she was going to ask religious leaders to appeal to Trump to stop the raids.
“Every person in America has rights,” she said. “These families are hardworking members of our communities in our country, this brutal action will terrorize children and tear families apart.”
Daniella Silva is a reporter for NBC News, specializing in immigration and inclusion issues, as well as coverage of Latin America.