In this op-ed, journalist Anjali Enjeti argues that President Trump's announcement of ICE raids before they happen is a strategic tactic he employs to terrorize the immigrant community.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that were cancelled last month are now set to begin this Sunday. The raids alone are horrific enough, but there’s something especially sinister about the Trump administration leaking news of them ahead of time. These pre-raid warnings reflect the kind of psychological warfare that ICE and the administration have engaged in against immigrant communities since President Donald Trump first took office.
ICE is expected to arrest and detain thousands of immigrant families who have received final orders of removal in 10 major cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco. But according to The New York Times, any “collaterals,” meaning nearby immigrants without lawful U.S. residency status who are not targets of the raid, are at risk for detention and deportation, too.
A series of raids that targets 10 of the most populous cities in the U.S. and 1 million immigrants who have removal orders translates to thousands of people being forced to reckon with the possibility of detention in inhumane facilities, or deportation that could ultimately lead to their deaths.
In many raids, ICE employs the element of surprise. These raids often occur very early in the morning at immigrants’ homes or at their places of employment, where agents sometimes dress like civilians in order to trick their targets. In some instances like the raids that will begin this weekend, there are early warnings. But the point of ICE informing the public about raids ahead of time is certainly not to warn immigrants so they can prepare or hide. It’s far more likely meant to traumatize them.
“This is, again, the president sowing fear,” Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a recent CNN interview. “He’s terrorizing these communities.”
Stoking fear in immigrant communities is fundamental to the origin of ICE, which was created after 9/11 in an act of reactionary racism and xenophobia against nonwhite immigrants. The treatment of immigrants, which was already awful under former President Obama, has worsened dramatically under Trump.
A pre-raid warning is simply another barbaric tactic the Trump administration is using to weaponize ICE.
Every one of Trump’s executive orders and policies around immigration, including the border wall, the Muslim ban, the zero tolerance policy, and the continued separation of children from their guardians at the border, has been meant to terrorize the immigrant community. His administration continues to deny and minimize the degree of squalor, overcrowding, and abuse inside of migrant detention centers. Trump demonizes and dehumanizes immigrants crossing the border by calling them illegal aliens, gang members, and criminals, despite the fact that the vast majority are families and children attempting to legally seek asylum and fleeing near certain death. A pre-raid warning is simply another barbaric tactic the Trump administration is using to weaponize ICE against immigrants and obliterate any sense of safety or security.
There are a few positive impacts of announcing the raids beforehand. #ICERaids trended on social media, Know Your Rights posts went viral, and donations are flooding in to immigrant advocacy organizations like RAICES and Immigrant Families Together.
But we must never lose sight of the fact that ICE, since its inception, and especially during the Trump administration, has never acted in the best interest of this nation’s immigrants.
Trump’s ultimate goal is to make America great (white) again by threatening migrants hoping to find a home in the United States and purging the country of the brown and Black immigrants who are already here. The pre-raid warnings are just an integral and likely intentional mechanism to realize the agency’s mission of enacting psychological warfare against immigrant communities.