Immigration

Houston Religious Leaders Condemn ICE Raids While Community Prepares

Immigration raids will happen over several days and are likely to take place in Houston and nine other major cities.

Imam Qasim Khan denounces actions against immigrants at the Al Tawid Mosque in Houston.

Muslim and Christian faith leaders, along with immigrant advocates, are condemning the Trump administration’s plans to detain undocumented immigrants in cities across the country. 

Raids are scheduled to happen over several days and are likely to take place in Houston and nine other major cities, the New York Times first reported Thursday. President Donald Trump postponed the operation last month.

“Those of you who are facing a possible atrocity this coming Sunday morning, let us encourage you to be strong, to be vigilant, to do good. Because the good person is the strong person. And the evil person, like the one we have in office, in Washington, he’s a spiritual and a moral weakling and God will deal with him in due time,” said Reverend Ronnie Lister.

Lister joined several religious community leaders in speaking out against current leadership and questioning the morality of current immigration policies and practices. 

Reverend Ronnie Lister railed against current immigration policy under President Trump.

“This administration is terrifying our community,” said Marta Ojeda, national coordinator of Interfaith United Justice Worker Center.

Lawyers are encouraging immigrants not to open their doors unless there is a warrant signed by a judge and not to answer questions about immigration status. 

The Immigrant Rights Hotline can also field questions regarding raids and the legal aid available. The number is 1-833-468-4664. 

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative legal director Andrea Guttin said that raids are targeting people who have deportation orders because they failed to show up in court.

“These families are being targeted for deportation without notice of their court dates, without access to legal counsel and without an opportunity to fairly present their case before an immigration judge,” Guttin said in a statement. 

She also said these operations put family members or people nearby at risk of being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“ICE increasingly apprehends other people in these ‘targeted’ raids including those with family members — particularly children — who are U.S. citizens, green card holders or have other types of legal status in the country,” Guttin said.

Local lawmakers react

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that while she hasn’t received any communication from the federal government directly about raids, she’s encouraging immigrant families to be aware of their rights. 

“These raids seek to subvert our sense of community by putting the very heart of Harris County, our diversity, in the crosshairs of a shameful political maneuver,” Hidalgo said in a statement.

In a written statement, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called the raids  a “political stunt,” adding that, “it has the effect to imperil lives and especially jeopardize the lives of children.”  

Raid threats sparking fear  

Raids also impact immigrant communities by causing anxiety and fear, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told CNN.

“I’ve had children come up to me at a forum saying ‘I’m afraid to go to school, I’m afraid to leave the house, I’m afraid to come home and find that my parents are gone’ and these are American children, U.S. born children, so it’s creating havoc in our community,” Acevedo said. 

Last month in June, the threat of raids diminished turnout in flea markets in Houston.

In the Rio Grande Valley, patients didn’t turn up to their doctor’s appointments on the Monday after planned raids, even though they had been postponed. 

“We had a lot of people call and say ‘Oh I can’t make my appointment’ or ‘just for a couple weeks I’m going to stay home,” said Rebecca Ramirez Stocker, executive director of Hope Family Health Center in McAllen, Texas. 

“Our numbers dip, which is scary and it’s hard,” said Stocker, who knows many people avoid getting vital medical treatments because they are afraid of immigration law enforcement.

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