Michigan immigrants on alert after Trump raid tweets

Rally against President Tump's immigration policies | Flickr

Michigan immigrant rights activists and lawyers say President Donald Trump’s recent raid announcement has spurred a new wave of panic in a community that has lived in fear for years.

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President Donald J. Trump, Friday, June 14, 2019, in the Rose Garden of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, Flickr

Trump on Saturday announced via Twitter that his planned immigration sweep in 10 major U.S. cities — none in Michigan — would be placed on hold for two weeks “at the request of Democrats” to see if they and Republicans can “work out a solution to the asylum and loophole problems at the southern border,” Trump said.

“If not, deportations start!” the president announced.

The delay comes after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked the president to not go through with plans to round up roughly 2,000 people across the country who have received deportation orders, the New York Times reported. 

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Immigrant rights activists and lawyers in Michigan have decried Trump’s threats, saying they have sent another wave of fear into Michigan’s immigrant community.

“The language about mass raids is a way to terrorize communities, but communities are already living in fear every day because of this deportation machine that seems intent on ripping children and families apart,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan.

Rally for undocumented immigrants in Detroit | Ken Coleman

Aukerman said she believes that Trump is “intentionally creating fear and chaos in immigrant communities by announcing these plans,” adding that he “wouldn’t announce that publicly” if deportation were really the goal.

The Associated Press reported that immigration officials also were concerned that Trump’s publicizing would put the operation at risk.

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not immediately respond to an email from the Michigan Advance.

Some Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) and John Moolenaar (R-Midland), haven’t always been on board with Trump’s immigration priorities.

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar | Ken Coleman

Amash opposed a law to penalize states that support local “sanctuary” policies and voted against a resolution expressing support for ICE agents and denouncing calls to abolish it, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Moolenaar recently joined forces with U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) to urge U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to delay for two years the detainment and deportation of Iraqi nationals who received orders for removal from the country.

In April, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous ruling that U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith did not have the authority to stop deportations of Iraqi nationals in Michigan, the Detroit News reported.

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Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, said that as many as 800 Chaldean immigrants in the state may now be at risk of deportation to Iraq — a country for which the U.S. Department of State issued a “do-not-travel” advisory in May, pulling federal workers from the embassy in Baghdad.

Roughly 160,000 Chaldeans live mostly in Macomb and Oakland counties, Manna said. Many of the Chaldeans seeking refuge in Michigan are Christians who face persecution in Iraq.

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“I received a call from a family that was in panic because they said that their sibling was being deported at 3 p.m. today,” Manna said. 

“We’ve been in a state of emergency for a couple of years now, trying to advocate with the administration and members of Congress that they shouldn’t be sending people back … to a country that we’ve recently labeled as having committed a genocide against our community.”

Multiple Republican state lawmakers and a spokesman for Moolenaar did not return calls or emails to the Advance for this story.

Russell Abrutyn, a Berkley-based immigration attorney in metro Detroit, said that although the paused raids were “fairly narrow in scope,” they still are “spreading a lot of fear,” worrying people “about being caught up in these raids, even if they’ve done nothing wrong.”

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Susan Reed, managing attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), said that despite the fear, immigrants are trying to foster resiliency.

“We can’t live in a constant state of panic. We have to know our rights and share that message with others and keep organizing and support our communities to get through this,” Reed said. “It’s really a balancing of the trauma of constantly being threatened with separation and the need to be strong.”

Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.

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