MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In immigrant-heavy South Florida, reaction is growing now to a series of highly publicized raids over the last week that saw hundreds of undocumented aliens detained in 12 states.
More than criminals were among those arrested, and fear is growing now about when the Feds might come knocking on local doors.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE – conducted dozens of takedowns across the country capturing undocumented immigrants. Republicans say the raids are nothing new, that planning for them was underway before President Trump took office.
“They were quite common in the Obama administration. President Obama had a high number of deportations,” said Congresswoman Ileana-Ros Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Trump detractors, however, note that Obama prioritized dangerous illegals. ICE issued a statement saying those rounded up in the latest sweeps include criminal aliens and other “undocumented immigrants.” President Trump has made no exceptions in his written orders to ICE.
“His executive order on the fifth day of his administration sends a clear signal that he plans to follow through on his campaign promise to deport eleven-plus million immigrants from this country,” said Juan Cuba, Chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.
Particularly worried are nearly two million so-called “Dreamers,” who came to the U.S. as young children and were protected from deportation by the Obama administration.
“I go to a Catholic church where there are a lot of Dreamers,” Yolanda Torres told CBS4 News. “They are very worried. They’re very scared, scared even to go out.”
President Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, says the green light has been turned on for ICE agents to get to work, and he told Congress on Friday the lawmen are pleased to have been set loose.
“I bet if you watch the morale issue, you’ll be surprised going forward,” Kelly said.
But in immigrant-sensitive South Florida, GOP leaders don’t want ICE going forward too fast.
“People are saying ‘if you’re going to deport violent criminals, great, get rid of those guys,'” Ros-Lehtinen said but warned against wholesale detentions and deportations.
Concern nonetheless remains over the Trump campaign promise that everyone is fair game.
When might raids, or “targeted enforcement actions,” as ICE calls them, be performed in South Florida?
“Not in the foreseeable future,” said South Florida ICE Spokesman Nestor Yglesias in response to an inquiry from CBS4 News. Precisely what the “foreseeable future” means remains to be seen.