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Raids targeting undocumented youth net up to 16 arrests in LA; activists call Trump support for slashing legal immigration ‘dangerous’

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | August 2, 2017

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Gloria Martínez, a UTLA representative, speaking at a Tuesday news conference calling for the release of Rómulo Avelica-González. (UTLA Facebook page)

Los Angeles activists decried as “dangerous” new support by the Trump Administration for slashing legal immigration, which came on the heels of news of arrests in Los Angeles during raids targeting undocumented youth.

Federal officials announced Tuesday that as many as 120 undocumented immigrant youth who had entered the country illegally as unaccompanied minors were arrested during last week’s nationwide raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.

In Los Angeles, up to 16 people were arrested in the operation, an ICE spokesperson told Univision.

The ICE raids took place in several cities, targeting undocumented youth who had either reached the age of 18 or were at least 16 and had criminal histories and/or suspected gang ties.

According to the official report from ICE, 130 of the 650 arrested had criminal convictions.

Agents also arrested 73 individuals who crossed the border as part of a family and 457 others whom they “encountered” during the operation.

“Illegally entering the United States as a family unit or (unaccompanied minor) does not protect individuals from being subject to the immigration laws of this country,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union in Long Island, at least nine teens were falsely accused of gang affiliation and sent to secure immigration detention facilities. In a letter last week, NYCLU attorneys accused the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement of detaining the students, who had not previously been charged with criminal gang activity, without conducting an independent investigation.


Fear of deportation among immigrant families is also creating “toxic stress” and an increase in school bullying of American children with undocumented parents, according to a report released this week by the Center for American Progress.

Children of immigrants have also increasingly become the target of racist and discriminatory attacks, the report says.

“Teachers have reported cases of children adopting Trump’s rhetoric to bully their peers in school, telling Latino children that they will be deported and saying they should go back to where they came from,” according to the report, released Monday. The report is based on the study, “The Impact of Detention and Deportation on Latino Immigrant Children and Families: A Quantitative Exploration.”

There are 6 million U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member, and for them, the situation is “frightening,” the report states.


In Los Angeles, some students are experiencing this first hand. Romulo Avelica-González, an undocumented immigrant, was arrested in February by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after dropping off one of his four daughters at a Lincoln Heights charter school, Academia Avance.

Avelica-González, 49, could be deported as soon as  Aug. 7,  according to his lawyer, Alan Diamante.

“We are prepared to fight for the dignity of the vulnerable community and the interest of children that shouldn’t live with the emotional burden of whether they will lose a parent to deportation,” Diamante said Tuesday during a news conference in Los Angeles calling for the release of Avelica-González.

“As a teacher for 17 years in East Los Angeles, I have seen the terror ICE infringes on students and how it affects their learning and well-being, so ICE does not have a place in our schools and communities,” said Gloria Martinez, a representative from the LA teacher union, United Teachers Los Angeles, who spoke at the news conference in support of the Avelica-Gonazález family.

“Los Angeles teachers and educators will remain united with immigrant families in this fight,” she said.

The report supports the fact that students affected by the fear of deportation struggle in school. “Children who have been separated from their parents frequently show signs of trauma, including anxiety, depression, frequent crying, disrupted eating and sleeping, and difficulties in school.”

It also states that the education and prosperity of these minors are important for the country’s economy. According to the study “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration,” in 2012 children of immigrants contributed 12 percent more per person, on average, in federal taxes than the rest of the native-born population and contributed $30.5 billion at the state and local levels.


However, on Wednesday, President Trump endorsed a revised immigration bill aimed at cutting almost in half legal immigration to the United States within a decade. The proposed legislation would change the system for giving priority for legalization (permanent residence) to high-skilled, English-speaking immigrants rather than family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

The RAISE Act would establish a point-based system for issuing green cards.

In Los Angeles, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) reacted, calling the bill “dangerous” for families in America.

“Point-based immigration is an insult to our values, would separate families forever, and immediately impact workers and the nation’s economy,” Angelica Salas, CHIRLA’s executive director, said in a statement.

The California Charter Schools Association in June issued a guide called “Protection of Undocumented and Vulnerable Students,” which was created by the Stanford Law School in response to charter schools seeking guidance to support their undocumented students and their families.

The guide provides a school readiness plan and details what families can do in the event of the detention of a student’s undocumented parent or guardian.

An LA Unified source said that a “We are one LAUSD” campaign will be officially launched in September in support of immigrant families in Los Angeles. In the district, roughly 1 in 4 students is undocumented or has a parent who is undocumented.

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