Threat of ICE raids creates fear in local immigrant communities

Maria Chavalan Sut, a Guatemalan refugee, has been given sanctuary in the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church while she fights to stay in the United States. Photo by Eze Amos Maria Chavalan Sut, a Guatemalan refugee, has been given sanctuary in the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church while she fights to stay in the United States. Photo by Eze Amos

Although President Trump walked back his order to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to conduct mass roundups of migrant families in major U.S. cities over the weekend, the delay did nothing to forestall the anxiety already created in the local immigrant community. 

The raids were postponed to allow talks between the White House and Democrats in Congress after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump.

Priscilla Mendenhall with Charlottesville-area Immigrant Resource and Advocacy Coalition is skeptical about the delay.

“It’s designed to further terrorize children and families and whole communities,” she says. “It’s deliberately manipulative. It’s cruel. I think it’s very intentional.” 

She believes the mass roundups are tied to Trump’s reelection campaign. “This kind of action on his administration’s part furthers a narrative about immigrants that’s dehumanizing, criminalizing, and one that’s recurring in American history.” 

CIRAC and other immigrant advocacy groups are calling upon local law enforcement to not cooperate with ICE.

The Trump administration is targeting  “vulnerable Virginia residents that might’ve fallen through the cracks in their court case for reasons beyond their control,” says Luis Oyola with Legal Aid Justice Center. “We are calling on localities to refuse to assist ICE in their operations.”

Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown says his office has no intention of participating in ICE raids because it’s a federal operation, and the people targeted don’t have state or local offenses.

Oyola offers this advice to Virginia residents: “You do not have to open the door for ICE and you should demand to see a judge’s signature on a criminal warrant.”

Charlottesville’s most high-profile asylum-seeker is Maria Chavalan-Sut, who has taken sanctuary at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church since October while she fights her deportation order through the court.

Before the raids were postponed, the church’s Pastor Isaac Collins urged ICE agents in the state who “are spending Sunday tearing families apart” to quit their jobs. “Walk away from this evil work, repent of these actions, make reparations to the migrant community, and I will help you find new work,” says Collins.

He also calls upon “every church in Virginia to offer sanctuary to undocumented migrants.”

Lana Heath de Martinez, a faith leader and organizer with the national sanctuary movement, notes that the majority of people targeted are indigenous to North America. “It is actually reminiscent of the Trail of Tears and other efforts to forcibly remove Native American folks and First Nations people.” she says. “This is a continuation of our disgraceful history and should be recognized as such.”

Mendenhall pledges resistance and support for migrant residents. “This community really shows what a small place can do when we come together.” 

ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell did not respond to phone calls from C-VILLE.

Updated 11:30am June 24

Updated 3:46pm with Sheriff James Brown’s response.


Original story

President Trump’s order to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to conduct mass roundups of migrant families in major U.S. cities, reportedly on Sunday, has created anxiety in the local immigrant community. Activists say raids have already occurred in Washington, D.C.

“Definitely in D.C. and we’ve heard raids are happening in northern Virginia,” says Priscilla Mendenhall with Charlottesville-area Immigrant Resource and Advocacy Coalition. “Whether or not we have raids, the fear they’re invoking here is real.”

CIRAC and other immigrant advocacy groups are calling upon local law enforcement to not cooperate with ICE.

The Trump administration is targeting  “vulnerable Virginia residents that might’ve fallen through the cracks in their court case for reasons beyond their control,” says Luis Oyola with Legal Aid Justice Center. “We are calling on localities to refuse to assist ICE in their operations.”

According to Oyola, Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown says his office has no intention of participating in ICE raids. C-VILLE Weekly was unable to immediately reach Brown.

Oyola offers this advice to Virginia residents: “You do not have to open the door for ICE and you should demand to see a judge’s signature on a criminal warrant.”

Charlottesville’s most high-profile asylum-seeker is Maria Chavalan-Sut, who has taken sanctuary at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church since October while she fights her deportation order through the court.

The church’s Pastor Isaac Collins urges ICE agents in the state who “are spending Sunday tearing families apart” to quit their jobs. “Walk away from this evil work, repent of these actions, make reparations to the migrant community, and I will help you find new work,” says Collins.

He also calls upon “every church in Virginia to offer sanctuary to undocumented migrants.”

Lana Heath de Martinez, a faith leader and organizer with the national sanctuary movement, notes that the majority of people targeted are indigenous to North America. “It is actually reminiscent of the Trail of Tears and other efforts to forcibly remove Native American folks and First Nations people.” she says. “This is a continuation of our disgraceful history and should be recognized as such.”

ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell did not immediately respond to phone calls from C-VILLE.

Correction: Lana Heath de Martinez was misidentified in the original story, as was Priscilla Mendenhall.