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California

Anger and confusion after Trump orders — then delays — immigration crackdown

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President Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House for a campaign event in Florida on Tuesday.
(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA/Shutterstock)

President Trump’s warning that “millions” of migrants would be deported starting this weekend was abruptly changed Saturday when he issued a surprise tweet announcing a two-week delay to the crackdown, urging Congress to hammer out reforms on immigration policy.

“If not, Deportations start!” Trump said in a tweet.

The shifting plans for mass removals drew swift condemnation from immigration advocates in Southern California, who called the sweeps an inhumane strategy for enforcement and a dangerous scare tactic that was cleaving communities.

“I think it is so cruel what he is doing,” said Angelica Salas, the executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA. “It’s clear that he has no sense of how this impacts real human beings.” What was particularly striking, Salas argued, was the “level of dishonesty, in that he’s using the fear and people as leverage for his demands on Congress.”

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Salas opined that the president was getting pushback about the logistics of his announced sweeps, as well as backlash from across the political spectrum.

“Even law enforcement — our LAPD, our sheriff — everyone is saying this is the wrong way to do what you are doing,” Salas said. “I can only use the word ‘harmful.’ Others say ‘disgraceful.’ All those adjectives really speak to his lack of thinking through about the impact this has.”

For Carmen, an undocumented 17-year-old in L.A., Trump’s unexpected announcement that the deportations would be temporarily delayed left her feeling more drained than relieved.

“I’m tired. I’m done. What else is he gonna tweet? Tomorrow, is he gonna say, ‘Just kidding, we’re starting the raids again’?” she said.

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The soon-to-be college student — whose last name was withheld because she fears becoming a target of immigration agents — said the president’s latest deportation plan finally sunk in for her Friday night, when friends began calling her expressing worry about the removals.

Carmen said the fatigue of always being at risk of deportation can cause her to not want to process immigration news, so she keeps Trump and the word “immigration” muted on Twitter.

But Friday night, she spent several hours creating an emergency plan, which included sharing her cellphone’s GPS location with select family and friends, communicating with her lawyer, and joining a group chat with family in the U.S. and Mexico so that everyone can mobilize in case something happens to her.

The news that Trump’s move would only focus on those with final deportation orders was little comfort, since she fears possibly being ensnared in a larger sweep — even if someone else was the intended target.

After seeing Trump’s tweet Saturday, she let out a sigh of exhaustion and was finally able to feel how stressed she’d been.

“People really forget about the human part of it, and how families will be separated, and how people will become unstable economically,” Carmen added.

Salas said her organization had outreach staff stationed across L.A., speaking with families and using social media to share and receive updates. Meanwhile, CHIRLA’s phones were ringing from those sharing their worries and asking for tips on how to prepare, she said.

Amid the confusion, Salas said her organization focused on preparation so that immigrants in the country illegally know their rights when and if ICE agents visit their homes.

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“Maybe we can’t control what this man is doing, but we can control how we respond to him,” Salas said.

Renee Vazquez, of the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, said those who come into contact with immigration officers also have the right to remain silent, to consult an attorney and to not sign any papers until they’ve spoken with a lawyer.

Dedicated hotlines — (213) 974-2998, (213) 974-3048, (213) 974-3012 and (213) 974-3005 — can also help connect people to legal services, Vazquez said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement Saturday, condemning how in recent years immigrants have been targeted and subjected to living in fear.

“Immigrants are not pawns to be used by leaders in Washington who are playing political games,” Solis said. “Instead, we need comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno


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