Miguel Rico's worst fear is getting separated from his three children. Following a four-day ICE sweep across Northern California, the Mexican immigrant has reason to worry.
"When you hear the news you get scared, especially if you have young kids," he said. "But at the same time, we have to look for options and we have to be prepared. Information is the best way to be prepared."
Amid ICE sweeps across the Bay Area and a war raging between federal immigration officials and California leaders determined to protect their residents, Rico and about 30 other South Bay residents gathered at the immigrant rights organization, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network, recently for a lesson on how to create emergency plans in case they or a family member is detained by ICE.
The plans include details on everything from who will look after their children and their pets if they're detained to what they'll do with their homes, what clothes they'll pack and where they'll stow emergency cash and important documents. It's a phenomenon that's become increasingly common amongst Dreamers and undocumented families as they prepare for the unrelenting immigration enforcement that ICE has promised in the nation's only sanctuary state.
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That enforcement continued with the confirmed arrests of 232 undocumented immigrants across the Bay Area and beyond. But not before Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned residents of the impending raids – a risky move that drew outrage from the Trump Administration and that launched a review by the Department of Justice. ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said Schaaf's "reckless" warning helped more than 850 others to avoid capture.
"The Oakland mayor's decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens – making clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold," said Homan during a Fox News interview recently.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in a briefing, "it's outrageous that a mayor would circumvent federal authorities and certainly put them in danger by making a move such as that."
The emergency planning workshop at SIREN was the first of its kind, but organizers said they plan to host more in the following weeks.
"This is our way to respond to all the ICE activity that's been happening," said Erica Leyva, a community organizer with SIREN who helped lead the workshop. "We want to prepare our families with how to deal with a situation in which a family member is detained by ICE so that they're aware of their options and what to do with their children."
All of the other families in attendance declined interviews, and organizers with SIREN closed off the workshop to media because they wanted to ensure the families felt they were in a safe space, they said.
Activists say fears are at an all-time high in immigrant communities across the country. Recently, an estimated 150 calls of reported ICE sightings in San Jose came into Santa Clara County's Rapid Response Network in just 48 hours, the group said. The network, a collaboration of several advocacy organizations, said it confirmed seven people were detained by immigration officers in San Jose in recent days and that others may have been arrested.