WASHINGTON -- Miami Democrats in Congress are trying to raise awareness and prepare their constituents to face immigration raids on Sunday, comparing their pleas to the work they do before hurricanes to raise alarm and spur action before a major storm makes landfall.
“Those of us who have lived through dictatorships understand what it’s like to live under constant fear, we understand what it means to be disappeared,” said Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. “In South Florida, we always prepare for storms. We know when a storm is coming, we help each other out, we have a plan and we are prepared. I am asking my community in South Florida to do the same, to have a plan to have the resources to have the information and for us to help each other in our community.”
Lawmakers in Washington say they haven’t been provided any information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the extent of the raids or the strategy ICE may use on Sunday, when many people will not be at their place of work.
“I’m worried about people not knowing their rights,” Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala said. “Not knowing that they don’t have to open up the door unless there’s a warrant signed by a judge. These are not law enforcement officers who are empowered to arrest them without a judge’s order.”
The Democrats say the planned raids in at least nine cities across the country, including Miami, are mostly a stunt for Trump to motivate his base of supporters who want to toughen the nation’s immigration laws and build a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“What we have seen from this president are continued attacks on our immigrant communities since he launched his campaign,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “Since he has taken office he has used his administration as a tool to instill fear in our communities.”
The lawmakers were worried about what could happen to children apprehended by ICE if they are not with their parents after the Miami Herald reported that some of the children at the Homestead detention center were detained while living in the United States and not while attempting to enter the country without their parents.
“This weekend ICE is threatening to launch nationwide raids and separate even more families,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “If Trump has his way, children will be taken by the government at schools, children may come home and find that their parents are no longer there because they have been taken by ICE.”
“This is a war against children, it’s not just a war against immigrants,” Shalala said. “If you’re a teenager, and we saw this in Homestead, and you have a three-year-old sister, you go to different places. It is pure evil and it’s a war against immigrants and against children and every child in my community is frightened to death because the kids that sit next to them in class are frightened.”
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who plans to visit the Homestead detention center with a group of lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee on Monday, said ICE has left lawmakers in the dark about the raids.
“ICE staff in Miramar have apparently gone over to Immokalee and they’re basically starting to stage to begin these raids but I don’t have any first-hand information,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is one of the few Republican lawmakers representing a district close to the nine cities where ICE raids are reportedly scheduled to take place. News reports on Friday said ICE agents were meeting in the Collier County portion of Diaz-Balart’s district to prepare for the weekend raids.
Diaz-Balart did not directly answer whether he supports raids in his district, arguing that they are a product of a failed immigration system.
“Until we have a real fix of a system that is totally broken and has gotten worse, these things are going to continue to happen,” Diaz-Balart said. “It’s not an issue of what I support or not. ICE is going to follow the law and I expect them to follow the law and to do so in a way that’s honorable.”