For the last month, President Donald Trump has been threatening mass ICE raids like we’ve never seen before to arrest and deport more immigrants than ever before. Thus far, the mass raids have failed to materialize. However, that doesn’t mean immigrant communities in Nevada and elsewhere are in the clear just yet.
In fact, right here in the Las Vegas Valley, there’s been at least one confirmed arrest in the last 100 hours. Contrary to Trump’s tweets, her greatest offense were traffic tickets. And contrary to the facade of calm after the storm that many of us prefer to cling onto, the storm rages on for immigrant communities near and far.
So what became of Trump’s threats of ICE raids?
Last month, President Donald Trump threatened ICE raids in ten major urban areas. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials claimed these raids would target “high priority” cases involving orders for removal. But considering who we’ve seen confront orders for removal and who’s been labeled as “high priority” for deportation, immigrant community leaders have long suspected ICE would cast wide nets in urban communities of color with large undocumented populations. And when push finally came to shove, Trump announced a “two week delay” on June 23, just hours before the raids were supposed to begin.
Fast forward to yesterday: The ICE deportation raids had finally begun. But instead of the wide nets that were generally expected, they’ve thus far consisted of the standard operating procedure that’s been in place since the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was moved out of the Department of Justice and converted into three successor agencies (ICE, CBP, and USCIS) in the new Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
We’ve seen scattered reports of arrests in recent days, along with a failed attempt at arrests in New York. But then again, mass raids may have never actually been the point of Trump’s threats. We’ve already experienced more severe and aggressive ICE and CBP behavior here in Nevada and throughout the nation, to the point where ongoing human rights violations at refugee prison camps and attempts to unilaterally usurp Congressional power to write laws often fall from “mainstream media” headlines in favor of breathless reports on Trump’s social media activities. So in this light, might Trump’s threats actually constitute “mission accomplished” regardless of whether they result in massive ICE raids?
“She was working on it. She was getting her green card. She had a work permit that had just expired, and she was trying to renew it so she could keep working and keep providing for our family.”
– Omar Arellano Cruz, on his mother’s determination to make it in America
We may have found an answer closer to home in the last 100 hours. While on her way to work last Thursday, Adriana Arellano Cruz made what she thought to be a routine stop at the bank. Yet as she appeared to be pulled over by police, she was instead swiftly arrested and detained by Las Vegas ICE agents.
Since then, her children have had to scramble to try to pick up the pieces and fight for their mother’s freedom. For daughter Kimberly Arellano, “It was really hard to find out, because I was the first one she called after she got picked by ICE.” She then had to call her brother Omar to break the news to him. And as the sole adult left in the house, it was up to Omar to rush home to call a lawyer for his mother while looking after his younger sister and brother.
According to Omar Arellano, “We didn’t expect this. It came out of nowhere.” And while the kids knew of their mother’s immigration status, Omar also knew these details: “She was working on it. She was getting her green card. She had a work permit that had just expired, and she was trying to renew it so she could keep working and keep providing for our family.”
So why was Adriana Arellano Cruz arrested by ICE last Thursday? Once again, they sought the ultimate penalty over traffic tickets (hers were from 2013). And like many of the other immigrants being targeted by federal authorities, she didn’t even know she was under an order for removal that the Trump administration claims makes her a “high priority” for deportation, regardless of her greatest “crime” being six-year-old traffic tickets.
“We heard rumors from the community that [heightened ICE activity] started Wednesday of last week. On Friday morning, that’s when we started to realize that it’s happening in our state.”
– Cecia Alvarado, Mi Familia Vota
Sound familiar? It has to me, as Adriana Arellano Cruz’s arrest reads eerily similar to ICE’s arrest and attempted deportation of Cecilia Gomez last year, which was based on a 20-year-old order for removal that was rooted in notario fraud. And when it comes to the “high crime” of traffic tickets, we’ve also seen ICE attempt to deport Alicia Moya and Jorge Franco over similarly minor traffic offenses that would typically result in small fines for more privileged members of the larger community.
And that’s not all. According to Mi Familia Vota’s Cecia Alvarado, despite the absence of any Nevada municipality from Trump’s alleged ten-city ICE target list, “We heard rumors from the community that [heightened ICE activity] started Wednesday of last week. On Friday morning, that’s when we started to realize that it’s happening in our state.” That is, once Mi Familia Vota and other organizations in the Nevada Immigrant Coalition learned of Adriana Arellano Cruz’s arrest, they better understood the harrowing truth behind Trump’s blunderous tweets.
In addition, according to Alvarado, “In the past 24 hours, I have received three phone calls. We are working on those cases with our attorneys.” So while Trump’s threat of mass raids may have failed to materialize as he’s described on Twitter, his anti-immigrant regime continues to chug along at breakneck pace.
“It’s really, really heartbreaking, especially since we have a 12-year-old brother who cries to see his mom. It’s just me and him.”
– Kimberly Arellano Cruz
As various politicians and pundits love to discuss immigration reform in terms of poll numbers and alleged anecdotes from “the heartland”, the news of Adriana Arellano Cruz’s arrest serves as a sobering reminder of the reality behind Trump’s rhetoric. As Kimberly Arellano Cruz explained to me at a press conference organized by the Nevada Immigrant Coalition earlier today, “It’s really, really heartbreaking, especially since we have a 12-year-old brother [AJ] who cries to see his mom. It’s just me and him.” She then added, “We have no support system. It’s just us.”
While Omar soon noted that some community allies have stepped up in recent days to help, it’s still no substitute for having their mother at home with them. Kimberly and AJ were served with an eviction notice just hours after their mother’s arrest, and Kimberly is now working part-time alongside Omar working full-time just to get by.
Between these latest arrests, Trump’s latest attempt to unilaterally eliminate nearly all asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border, his repeated attempts to rig the 2020 Census, the ongoing horror stories emanating from Trump’s refugee prison camps, and his racist and misogynist attacks on four progressive women in Congress, it’s becoming more obvious what’s really going on. Regardless of whether Trump’s threats of mass raids ever materialize, the damage is already being done, and that damage is hitting far closer to home than most of us want to admit.
If you suspect ICE and/or other immigration enforcement officials are targeting you and/or someone you know for arrest and deportation, ACLU of Nevada and the UNLV Immigration Law Clinic have compiled resource pages to keep on hand and utilize if the moment comes.