Feds plan mass migrant deportation operation in Houston this weekend: What you need to know

Texas Tribune News

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations officers arrested more than 100 people on federal immigration violations in Sumner last year. ICE agents are conducting a raid in Houston and other American cities starting Sunday. They are targeting people with deportation orders.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations officers arrested more than 100 people on federal immigration violations in Sumner last year. ICE agents are conducting a raid in Houston and other American cities starting Sunday. They are targeting people with deportation orders.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it plans to target 2,000 undocumented people who already have deportation orders or have missed court dates. The operation will begin Sunday in Houston and several other cities. Here’s what you need to know:

ICE is targeting violent people, but other undocumented migrants could be affected.

Anyone who comes to the United States without documentation or with forged documents can be removed quickly under an order of expedited deportation, but in general there are reasons for removal, including criminal acts, violating terms of visas or entering the United States unlawfully.

The New York Times reports that ICE will target violent criminals for removal, but “priorities do not mean other categories are exempt.”

Immigration laws prevent the federal government from deporting refugees or immigrants seeking asylum.

Tens of thousands of deportation orders have been issued in Texas

So far in fiscal year 2019, Texas has issued more than 25,000 deportation orders, with the largest number coming from courts in Houston (8,319), Dallas (4,794) and San Antonio (3,698), according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Civil rights groups are trying to educate undocumented migrants about their rights.

Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said ICE agents aren’t permitted to enter someone’s home without a signed warrant from a judge, and do not have to be let inside until one is presented.

When an ICE agent knocks on a person’s door, the person has the right to ask that a warrant and any other paperwork be slipped under the door. Saldivar is telling people they should not immediately open the door.

“That would be one of the biggest mistakes one could make,” Saldivar said. “Opening the door allows the agent to pursue the person they’re seeking and both question anyone in the house and search anything in the house.”

After detainment, individuals have the right to stay silent, speak with a lawyer and make a phone call. From October 2000 through May 2019, less than 30% of immigrants in state deportation proceedings had representation, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. That’s one of the lowest rates in the country, and why Saldivar stresses keeping attorneys and family members’ contact information accessible.

Immigration advocacy groups could be viewed as interfering

Individuals and groups can potentially put themselves at risk for aiding people with active deportation orders, Saldivar said, depending on the extent that ICE or any other law enforcement officers perceive someone as interfering with an investigation.

If so, they could be arrested or charged.

ICE doesn’t usually disclose planned raids

It is rare for ICE to announce raids, but the agency has been signaling for weeks that it was getting ready to conduct mass arrests. President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that the agency was preparing to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants, something ICE officials later said would not be logistically possible.

ICE frequently touts the success of its “targeted enforcement operations,” where anywhere from a dozen to a hundred undocumented immigrants are apprehended and deported over the course of several days.

How soon someone is removed from the country depends on their individual case

What happens after ICE detains an individual is dependent on what their deportation order says, and whether there’s a formal court hearing or more immediate deportation, Saldivar said. If someone is in violation of an outstanding court order, he said it’s “likely” there would be an expedited process. But an ICE deportation officer will make an initial determination whether to place the undocumented person into removal proceedings, and if so, how to charge them.

Prior to deportation, it’s likely undocumented individuals will be held in one of Texas’ 30 detention centers — particularly if the raids are as large as the agency reports. Deportation is often carried out through contract and chartered flights, as well as commercial airlines, according to ICE’s website.