Bellingham and Whatcom County community members are joining a country-wide movement to form organized networks to support immigrants targeted by Immigration Customs Enforcement.
Under what is called the Rapid Response Network, local volunteer teams are forming to witness ICE raids to ensure those who are about to be arrested know their rights and given due process.
The first of many meetings to assemble rapid response teams was held last week. The training was a culmination of efforts by local activist group ImagineNoKages. A presentation was given to inform community members how they could respond when a raid happens within the home.
One of the key points was that, although intervening in a raid is illegal, documenting the raid itself isn’t. As long as your camera is in sight of an officer, one could even use their cellphone to record the raid, making a point of ensuring accountability.
“One of the most important roles for a community volunteer is to be a witness to enforcement actions,” said Hannah Stone, immigration lawyer and Fairhaven college instructor. “The presence of a witness will help hold both local police and federal immigration officers accountable for their conduct, and help prevent civil rights abuses.”
Stone was not at the meeting, but works with clients on immigration cases. She cautioned undocumented people to be aware of the risk of being a witness, as they are also vulnerable to arrest.
In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that expanded priorities for deportation. The order ultimately gives permission for immigration officers to arrest undocumented people at their discretion if they are deemed to pose a risk to national security, according ICE’s website. ICE can arrest others at the scene, even if they are not the original target.
The term for this is a collateral arrest, which occurs when immigration enforcement officers target one person or area and arrest additional people they suspect of being undocumented.
“As a witness, there is a risk assessment that must be completed because a collateral arrest is possible,” Stone said. “Under the current administration, it is expected that the number of collateral arrests will increase. The policy of the current administration seems to be to detect, detain and deport all undocumented individuals without regard for particular mitigating or aggravating factors.”
ICE has repeatedly stated that all undocumented people are subject to deportation.
“All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” ICE spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe told the Front in January.
In response to the expansion of immigration enforcement activity under President Trump, advocacy groups such as the Immigrant Defense Project have created toolkits to inform people of their rights. Below, are list of some points from their Know Your Rights with ICE pamphlet.