Immigration advocates have set up a hotline for reporting raids and other enforcement activity as they brace for President Trump to make good on his promise to crack down on those illegally here. More “rapid response” efforts are on the way.
Last Thursday, rumors began circulating about an immigration raid in South Seattle. It’s the kind of activity that immigrant advocates have been bracing for under President Donald Trump, who has promised to crack down on illegal immigration.
There didn’t seem to be a raid after all. The rumors appear to have been sparked by arrests linked to an alleged prostitution ring involving Asian sex workers, said Sandy Restrepo, executive director of Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, a nonprofit provider of legal services.
But that wasn’t known for hours, until a Justice Department press release came out.
A new hotline for reporting enforcement activity aims to allow “rapid response” teams to check out such rumors as they’re happening, and provide referrals to lawyers and other services when people are detained. It will also track allegations of improper behavior by immigration officials, such as arrests made at churches, schools and other “sensitive locations,” as designated by the federal government.
The hotline (844-RAID-REP, or 844-724-3737) was started by Restrepo’s organization, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), and several other groups belonging to the recently formed Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. It will operate seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. About 70 volunteers, who speak Spanish and English, have signed up to staff it so far, and can take calls from anywhere by logging onto an online system, according to Restrepo.
She said the volunteers will provide information to teams around the state who can go to locations of reported raids and see if they’re actually happening. They then will disseminate what they know throughout the network.
In about a month, the network also plans to roll out a text-messaging system. Anyone who signs up will get texts about ongoing activity.
Callers, whose identities will be kept confidential, may also report friends and relatives who were detained. If private representation is not an option, volunteers will forward names to NWIRP, which provides legal help to people being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
At the same time, more than 525 lawyers have agreed to help in the case of a “large-scale immigration raid, presumably at a workplace,” said NWIRP Executive Director Jorge Barón, who is coordinating the effort.
And dozens more volunteers have said they can provide food or temporary shelter to immigrants in crisis. Sometimes, that might mean housing children whose parents have been detained — a need illustrated by a recent arrest of a single mom in Federal Way, according to Restrepo.
The children, 5 and 9, were able to stay with relatives while their mom was temporarily detained, she said, but others might not have that option.
The hotline and rapid- response teams dovetail with a new church-based sanctuary movement for immigrants at risk of deportation. The Church Council of Greater Seattle, leading that movement, is part of the network.
On Monday, the hotline’s first day, volunteers fielded a few calls asking about general help and not related to breaking enforcement activity. Restrepo said she expects more calls as the hotline is publicized.
Already, she said, groups like hers have seen immigration officials detain people who would have been left alone in President Barack Obama’s last years in office, after he set new enforcement priorities and launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Restrepo cited the arrest of Daniel Ramirez, arrested in Des Moines in February despite being a Dreamer.
“We have at least three more years under Trump,” she said. Immigration officials, she predicted, “are not going to let up.”