Federal immigration raids could begin nationwide this weekend. The news has local immigration groups on alert again. Immigrants and undocumented residents have been on edge for the last several years, but the anticipated raids are creating new tensions.
And immigration attorneys say the Trump administration’s approach to immigration has made it unclear who is being prioritized for deportation.
“So a lot of people are living in fear even if they don’t have deportation orders, even if they have their claims being processed lawfully,” said Schuyler Pisha an immigration attorney in Fall River. “So there’s just a huge chilling effect that they may be picked up at any time.”
It is unclear if Rhode Island or southern New England will be targeted as part of any coordinated plan. A Boston-based spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on any such plan.
According the Pisha, the last large-scale immigration raid in the South Coast region took place in New Bedford in 2007.
In Rhode Island, immigrant-rights group, AMOR says there have not been increased calls into a 24-hour support line. The group provides support to undocumented residents in the area.
“We have spoken with the people that we know about how to act or what to do if something like this [ICE raid] happens,” said Catarina Lorenzo the head of AMOR.
The Rhode Island State Council of Churches is calling on houses of worship in the area to host 24-hour prayer vigils over the weekend where undocumented residents can claim sanctuary status.
The Providence municipal police force will not be part of any attempts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest undocumented residents in the city. That’s been the status quo for city police since Elorza declared Providence a sanctuary city two years ago.
Elorza says he’s received no information that Providence will be targeted by ICE in the coming days.
"We don’t know," Elorza said Friday. "They have said they are focusing on major cities. They’ve published [names] of some major cities. Providence hasn’t been on that list, however that hasn’t kept people from being frightened."
Ana Gonzalez contributed reporting.