Protesters blocked an onramp to the 101 freeway in Los Angeles Feb. 9, objecting to what they claim is a rise in immigration raids.
The panicked emails and phone calls began streaming in from community members at about 11 a.m. Thursday morning, inundating Los Angeles immigration lawyers with far more cases than usual. Immigrant advocate groups claim that more than 100 people had been taken into custody by federal immigration officials in Southern California Thursday, indicating a “coordinated sweep” in arrests and heightening fears that Donald Trump’s promise to crackdown on deportations had begun to take effect.
Police and immigration officials denied the “raids” and disputed the claim that the arrests were part of a more stringent approach, saying any detentions were simply part of “routine” enforcement activities. But a flurry of calls regarding arrests spurred immigration attorneys into rapid response efforts, and prompted protests on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
“We know the daily patterns of people being picked up and taken,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There’s a natural flow of enforcement that happens every day. But this was not normal.”
According to Salas, the “raids” were taking place in Van Nuys, San Bernardino, Downey, Santa Paula and Oxnard. Immigration attorneys went to the downtown Los Angeles detention and removal facility Thursday afternoon and saw five white vans and one bus filled with people leave the premises. When an attorney asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement for information about clients who were detained, an ICE officer said more information was needed to identify the individuals, because more than 100 people were currently detained in the facility, Salas said. Usually only one or two people are detained in the center on a given day, Salas added.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California tweeted “URGENT: ICE conducted multiple raids of homes across the city.”