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Undocumented families living in ‘climate of fear’ in wake of recent ICE raids, arrests

Posted at 1:52 AM, Feb 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-14 01:52:10-05

STATEN ISLAND – Cesar Vargas is an immigration attorney on Staten Island who says many undocumented families are "going dark" out of fear of being deported.

"There's definitely a climate of fear," Vargas said. "We have families, we have parents who are reluctant to go outside to the store, reluctant to go to the church or to attend any type of community meetings because they're afraid if they step out of their home they might be picked up or maybe detained."

Social media accounts shut down. Children scared to go to school. Adults afraid to go to work.

"A broken immigration system is being enforced and we're seeing families falling into those cracks," Vargas said.

Vargas arrived to the United States when he was only 5 years old. Crossing the border to Mexico with his siblings and mother because his family was desperate for a better future. He says it's families like his who will likely suffer from what happens to be a new surge of immigration raids at the hands of ICE.

Vargas, however, is quick to point out President Obama deported 2.5 million during his term, but says this new White House administration is different.

"There's a sense of fear that President Donald Trump's rhetoric is not helping and I think this is something that we are really concerned about," Vargas said.

ICE officials confirm 41 arrests from New York City and surrounding communities. 38 of those arrested officials say had criminal convictions.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants, however, have been quick to point out at those taken into ICE custody who have no criminal records whatsoever.

"If ICE comes to your door, you have the right to not open your door," Thanu Yakupitiyage, spokesperson for NYIC said. "You have the right to remain silent. If ICE does let themselves in you have the right to ask for an attorney and to not under any circumstances sign anything."

Additional tips include:

  • If you need an interpreter, ask for one
  • Ask for a warrant signed by a judge
  • If federal agents force their way in, do not resist