After a wave of raids last weekend by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials landed over 600 people, in cities across the country, in federal detention centers, illegal immigrants around the nation are suddenly growing far more concerned about what the Trump administration might mean for their future residency plans. Add to that this morning’s latest leaks/rumors, courtesy of the Associated Press, that Trump is making plans to call up 100,000 National Guard troops to “round up” illegal immigrants and you have a recipe for nationwide panic among those who have intentionally violated U.S. immigration laws.
As the New York Times points out, this uncertainty over Trump’s approach to deportations has Mexican nationals flooding consulates all over the country for legal advice on how to fight deportation.
Perhaps nobody is as busy as Carlos García de Alba, the consul general in Los Angeles, one of the largest offices in the country. He has begun to train nearly every employee in basic legal services and expects to bring in many more immigration lawyers. Still, in recent months, Mr. García has felt torn between his efforts to increase services to worried constituents and trying to calm their nerves.
“We don’t want to provoke and feed a kind of paranoia among our nationals here,” Mr. García said in an interview. “There is a kind of psychosis, people are really scared. Up to now we haven’t seen anything that is really different than the last several years, but the environment is making people panic and they are completely fearful. They want to know what is going to happen and how to protect themselves.”
Of course this all comes after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he would spend $50 million to pay for lawyers at every Mexican consulate in the U.S. to help Mexican Nationals fight deportation proceedings.
In the last week, the Mexican government has created a 24-hour hotline to help answer any questions for Mexicans in the United States. Last month, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he would spend $50 million to pay for lawyers at every consulate to help people facing deportations. And consulates have been distributing fliers detailing what to do if someone is approached by deportation agents — advising them not to open their doors without proof of a warrant or speak to officers without a lawyer.
Foreign service officers who have spent decades in the United States said in interviews that they had all encountered increased anxiety among undocumented immigrants, as several states have passed their own laws to deal with illegal immigration. But they said this was the most hostile national atmosphere for Mexicans in recent memory, making their jobs both more difficult and more urgent.
Mexican consulates are even distributing this handy flyer to advise their citizens “How to Act In Case Of A Migrant Detention.”
Scared by rumors and rhetoric, some consulates have reported of immigrants taking drastic steps to avoid authorities, like keeping their children home from school, quitting their jobs or selling their homes for cash. “There is an inherent feeling of vulnerability that comes with being undocumented in this country, and that vulnerability moves you to get away of anything that is official government,” said Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general in Austin, Tex., who estimates that about half of the 200,000 Mexicans living in the region are undocumented. “The first challenge for us is to make sure that immigrants understand that the consulate is a safe place where they can get accurate information.”
Many of the consulates’ most pressing concerns now are defensive. In several cases last week, immigration agents were “unwilling to provide our nationals with the option to talk with our consulate and the obligation to notify us,” said one Mexican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue was still under investigation. Under the Vienna Convention, a 1963 international treaty, any citizen of another country should be offered a chance to speak with their consulate.
Felipe Carrera oversees the department of protection in the Los Angeles consulate, where dozens of lawyers assist with immigration cases. For years, the office has sent a lawyer to the federal immigration center daily, monitoring who is taken in and talking to as many as 15 people a day. Minutes after he heard reports of dozens of arrests last week, several lawyers went there to talk with as many Mexicans as they could.
“Our main purpose is to find out if there have been violations of due process,” Mr. Carrera said. “People need to know they have constitutional rights. We want them to know about the Fifth Amendment and make sure they are properly advised about what happens if they plead guilty.”
Might we suggest that the most effective way to combat deportation might be to immigrate to the United States legally…just a suggestion, of course, but it just might be crazy enough to keep the ICE officials away…