U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that were predicted for this past weekend in the Bay Area and which stirred numerous protests locally by immigrants' rights advocates did not materialize, despite the threat of heightened enforcement aimed at deporting thousands of migrants suspected of being in the country illegally.
Fears of a possible immigration sweep in major U.S. metropolitan areas took hold last week, when the New York Times reported that ICE agents were planning to target at least 2,000 immigrants who had been ordered to be deported in "at least 10 major cities." But in a tweet Sunday afternoon, the nonprofit advocacy group Pangea Legal Services reported that the coast was clear -- they had received no reports of verified ICE activity through its emergency hotlines, attorneys or the ICE field offices.
The Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network, which relies on hundreds of volunteers to report and monitor immigration enforcement activities in the South Bay, did not hear of any confirmed ICE activity either. There was plenty of anxiety, however, with rumors of ICE spottings throughout the county, according to Eunice Hernandez, a community organizer with Sacred Heart Community Service.
"There were a lot of rumors going around on Facebook and it spread like wildfire," she said.
The network has at least 800 volunteers throughout the county, including numerous North County residents.
A spokesman for the local ICE field office in San Francisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the days leading up to the planned immigration raids, Santa Clara County leaders released a statement on its commitment to not cooperate with ICE." An estimated 130,000 undocumented immigrants reside in Santa Clara County.
"In light of the threat of federal immigration raids we reaffirm our commitment to providing legal assistance to all who need it and due process to every person residing on Santa Clara County soil," county Supervisor Dave Cortese said in the statement.
The rapid response network receives more than $500,000 from the county to monitor ICE activity and, if people are arrested, dispatches an attorney to track down their location and provide them with legal services. But the network, along with other immigrant advocacy groups, have reported repeated instances where ICE agents have denied access to detainees, running afoul with the constitutional rights to an attorney.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a federal complaint on behalf of Pangea — a Bay Area nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants, particularly related to deportation defense — seeking an injunction preventing ICE from blocking groups from providing legal services to those picked up in ICE raids. U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled in a decision Saturday that ICE agents must allow attorneys access to those who are arrested, and that the court "expects that a noncitizen will not be removed unless and until a reasonable opportunity to talk with an attorney has been provided."
Edwin Carmona-Cruz of Pangea Legal Services said Sunday he believes that the preparedness of the immigrant-advocate communities, along with the federal court notice, worked to deter ICE from carrying out operations in the Bay Area.
Pangea Legal Services in a Twitter announcement on Sunday afternoon: "As of 1:30 p.m., no verified ICE activity has been reported through our hotlines, attorney pro-bono list, ICE field offices or anywhere else in the community that we have been monitoring very closely."
In a July 11 letter to ICE Acting Field Officer Erik Bonnar, Pangea and other groups raised concerns that the federal agency was processing arrested individuals at its building on 630 Sansome St. in San Francisco on Sunday, when the building is supposed to be closed. When attorneys tried to get in, they were denied at the door and told it was closed for the day. The letter also claims to have documented, repeated instances where attorneys were blocked at the ICE processing center in Stockton.
Carmona-Cruz said the nonprofit is prepared to take legal action if ICE agents fail to provide undocumented immigrants access to counsel during any raids, he added.
"Anywhere ICE is present, we will be ready to respond," Carmona-Cruz said.
Hernandez of Sacred Heart Community Service said this has been an ongoing challenge for the Rapid Response Network as well, with ICE agents bringing detainees to the Morgan Hill field office last winter -- which is not a processing center -- and then denying attorneys access because there is no "secure space" to talk to clients. She recalled one instance where a man was held in a van for four hours while agents went back and forth from the field office in a bid to get him to sign his own deportation order before he could speak to an attorney. Only after that was he sent to a processing center.
"This isn't something new, this is something ICE is notorious for -- violating constitutional rights," she said.
Hernandez said she believes the judge's ruling threw a wrench in the plans for ICE raids over the weekend, which is why there were no reports of confirmed activity. In a similar announcement that fizzled out, President Donald Trump threatened that there would be ICE raids in a tweet on June 17, but later walked back the claim on June 22, stating the enforcement would be delayed pending a bipartisan agreement on a solution to the "Asylum and Loophole" problems at the Southern Border.
Last month, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors reaffirmed its policy of not working with ICE under virtually any circumstances, creating sanctuary policies that prevent the county jail system from providing ICE the date, time and location of the release of inmates suspected of being in the country illegally. At the time, board President Joe Simitian -- who represents North County -- described ICE as an agency that's "institutionally racist."
The investment in the rapid response network is part of a larger $5.5 million commitment by Santa Clara County to fund "know your rights" education campaigns and other services aimed at supporting immigrants in the county, which has been a priority since the 2016 election.
Residents are encouraged to report ICE activity by calling the rapid response network hotline at 408-290-1144.
• Hundreds of people gathered in Palo Alto Friday to call for the closure of camps where migrants are reportedly being held with little access to beds, showers and food ahead of rumored ICE raids over the weekend. View photos from the event on our Facebook page.