Washington, DC — Detention Watch Network (DWN), the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream (UWD) and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) condemn Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) plan to conduct a nationwide immigration enforcement operation from mid- to late-September. Multiple sources within and close to ICE have shared information with advocates about the operation, which ICE is calling “Operation Mega.” In addition to apprehending targeted individuals prioritized in the president’s January 25 Executive Order, ICE agents will apprehend undocumented or otherwise removable individuals encountered during the operation, per ICE policy under the Trump administration. These raids are intended to be historic in size, targeting between 6,000 and 10,000 immigrants.
Operation Mega is part of a wholesale and escalating attack on all immigrants. In the wake of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program on Tuesday, it is clear that this administration will not exercise restraint in enacting an anti-immigrant and white supremacist agenda. In fact, earlier this year, Trump’s top immigration agent declared that “no population is off the table.”
This operation would devastate immigrant communities, separate families and endanger lives. Enforcement operations inevitably and intentionally result in detentions of community members, key community leaders, primary caregivers and many others. Expanding the number of individuals in immigration detention this quickly is a recipe for cruel conditions, deaths, and rights violations on a massive scale.
In the most recent enforcement operation for which ICE released data, approximately 70% of individuals arrested were what ICE calls “collateral” arrests - undocumented individuals who face arrest and detention just because ICE encountered them while they were looking for someone else. The operation is scheduled to occur as Congress decides whether to fund a massive expansion of the immigration detention system.
“Operation Mega is a cynical attempt by ICE to manipulate the congressional appropriations process. It is no coincidence that this operation is planned for the last weeks of the government’s fiscal year. ICE is intentionally elevating detention numbers before the new fiscal year to claim an ‘operational need’ for more funding and more detention beds,” said Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network. “For too long, even members of Congress who have condemned attacks against immigrant communities have voted to fund ICE to implement those same attacks. With Operation Mega, ICE has once again shown its hand. ICE’s ‘need’ for additional funding is politically manufactured and neither Congress nor taxpayers should reward such cruel and cynical behavior.”
Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream added, “Two days ago, Trump killed the DACA program which protected me and 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation. Today he has tried to deflect criticism by tweeting that immigrant youth had ‘nothing to worry about.’ Seriously? How can we not worry when we learn that ICE is about to launch massive raids? Congress needs to defund these agents who are armed to attack families and get to work now on passing a clean Dream Act. The time for action is now!”
Avideh Moussavian, Senior Policy Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, condemned the planned operation, stating, “This administration is intent on making life for vibrant immigrant communities as painful as possible. Large scale raids operations designed to artificially manufacture the need for DHS’ mass detention and deportation budget are unconscionable. We remain undeterred in calling out DHS for terrorizing our communities and in calling on Congress to not allow our tax dollars to go to ICE and CBP agents separating immigrant families.”
“An operation of this massive scale would devastate immigrant communities and endanger lives. Families will be separated and children will be traumatized,” said Michelle Brané, Director for Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “These actions do not make us safer. On the contrary, they undermine the rule of law by invoking fear and blatantly ignoring due process.”
Contrary to ICE’s intent to silence communities with fear, communities are instead prepared to defend themselves against these operations, which have occurred for years on a smaller scale. Groups are also encouraging local, state and federal elected officials to work with their constituents to record abuses and human rights violations committed by ICE agents in the community and in immigration detention centers. State and local elected officials should also take immediate steps to ensure that local and state resources are not used to help implement Operation Mega or other enforcement actions.
“We encourage community members at risk to review their safety plans and tips for how they can defend their rights if they encounter ICE,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center. “All people have the right to remain silent. If stopped or arrested, you do not have to answer an immigration agent’s questions. If an immigration agent knocks on your door and does not have a warrant, do not open the door.”
Know Your Rights! Resources for the community include:
- NIJC, Know Your Rights: Preparing for ICE Enforcement Actions
- UWD, Deportation Defense Card
- Immigrant Defense Project, A toolkit to prepare and protect our communities
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.
United We Dream (UWD) is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful nonpartisan network made up of 55 local groups in 26 states. UWD organizes and advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community—justice for all immigrants. You can find more about UWD online at www.unitedwedream.org
Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. Visit immigrantjustice.org. Follow @NIJC.
Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. Women’s Refugee Commission researches their needs, identifies solutions and advocates for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. Since its founding in 1989, it has been a leading expert on the needs of refugee women and children, and the policies that can protect and empower them. Visit womensrefugeecommission.org.
National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income. At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S. should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and we play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of policies that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive. Visit www.nilc.org and follow us at @NILC_org.