SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Ahead of sweeping deportation raids set to take place on Sunday, ABC4 News is looking into the tactics U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employs during these operations.
Documents released by the immigrant rights groups Mijente, Just Futures Law, and Detention Watch Network, appear to show that ICE officials are creating arrest target lists for mass raids to meet specific quotas.
The documents and email exchanges refer to a planned operation in September 2017. Dubbed Operation Mega, the operation was meant to target 8,400 noncitizens, including here in Utah.
In one, a deportation officer in Salt Lake City wrote that his office was “required to have 240 targets.”
The Salt Lake City Field Office is also responsible for operations in Idaho, Montana and Nevada.
The officer also stated in the email that “Boise can provide 50 targets, leaving 190 additional needed, 95 from SLC and 95 from LVG.”
In another email which also originated from the Salt Lake City office, an officer wrote “I have projected the need for bout 40 officers, but we will see what we can come up with locally between ERO and HSI, then see what we can get for good detailers. Our DFODs want LVG to provide 200 good targets, and we are on track for that. To be able to hit 40 targets each day + the collateral arrests, we will need a number of arrest teams, 3 roving transport vans, and a processing team.”
The raid was called off after information was leaked to the media.
“It is a scary time for many individuals,” said Seth Ashton, Attorney at Law, Wilner & O’Reilly.
“Before these types of incidents kind of started to come to light, you would hear a lot of talk about priorities and making sure our system is guided more toward deporting or removing people from the country that had criminal backgrounds or otherwise were a danger to the communities. But when you put these quotas on officers they are going to go for people who are low-hanging fruit,” he explained.
“It ends up being a search for not just one specific individual but as many individuals as they can get up in that raid or arrest,” Ashton told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
The immigration attorney says the raids have always happened but admits he’s seen a noticeable change under the Trump Administration.
“They’re happening because there’s an increased need to show enforcement. Enforcement has become a primary topic for the president.”
He says while laws should be upheld, the way the raids are being carried out is frustrating.
“They’re asking the legal system to go very quickly beyond its capability. It is a court system for example. Rights are initiated from the very beginning. If you try and rush the court system into making fast decisions, sometimes it can lead to bad results.”
Ashton says undocumented immigrants do have rights in the United States. Click here for that information.