Local immigration groups are preparing for the possibility of immigration raids targeting people with deportation orders starting as soon as Sunday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it’s planning to target more than 2,000 people across the country next week.
“I believe the manner in which [the raids will be] carried out is unjust," said Robert Painter, managing attorney with American Gateways, one of the largest immigration legal services providers in Texas. "I certainly believe that the narrative being promoted by ICE right now that they are simply targeting people who are simply ne’er do wells who are absconding from justice is inaccurate"
He said there were a number of legitimate reasons why someone might miss an immigration court hearing that have nothing to do with "malicious intent on the part of the client.”
American Gateways posted a video on its Facebook page Thursday informing people of their rights.
Immigration advocates say they are more prepared this time than they were before a round of ICE raids in 2017, which resulted in more than 100 people in Austin being arrested.
Alicia Torres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership's ICE Out of Austin campaign, says many of those arrested last time did not have deportation orders, but were with others who did.
“So we’re definitely amplifying that known fact to the community and saying, ‘Look. Everybody needs to be on alert,'" she said. "Everybody needs to know their rights. Everybody needs to have a number to call if and when that happens.’”
ICE has already been deporting an average of almost 8,000 people a month from the U.S. interior, according to the agency’s latest available data.