The threat of widespread Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids aimed at removing undocumented immigrants from the country is looming large this weekend, after President Trump announced Monday that they’d be carried out after July Fourth.
Originally scheduled for late June, the Trump administration planned to target 10 major cities and 2,000 families, according to media reports.
Acting ICE director Mark Morgan told reporters last month his agency was targeting families who were on an expedited court docket and said the intent of the operation was to deter migrants from crossing the southern border.
The fear of potentially being swept up — even before such raids are carried out — has already had real consequences among undocumented immigrants in the Boston area and beyond, said Matt Cameron, an immigration lawyer based in East Boston, who said he has heard of people choosing not to go to work for days, in order to “wait for it to blow over.”
“People are reluctant to take their kids to school, they’ll miss medical appointments, they’ll just stay in their homes because they’re so terrified,” he said. “That’s the short-term impact.”
The long-term effect, Cameron said, is the added trauma to an already traumatized community.
“Usually they have a reason to be concerned about the government, but I think it’s out of proportion to what the threat actually is,” he said.
Misinformation about the ICE actions, such as who is actually being targeted, is creating “pretty serious mental problems, and potentially a lot of damage to the economy,” Cameron argued.
“The more you can know about your own situation, the more you can know about your rights, and about who’s actually at risk, and how ICE carries these operations out — everybody’s better off,” he said.
The Globe recently caught up with Cameron, who shared eight things you should know about the threatened ICE actions:
1. The targets of any potential raids are known. “It’s not random, it’s not a mystery.”
The word “raids” can be misleading, Cameron said, “because it sounds random.” He stressed that the people being targeted have already received orders of removal, meaning they can be deported. Generally, there are three ways to receive an order of removal:
■ Undocumented immigrants can receive expedited orders, which are “issued pretty much automatically to any recent entrant within 100 miles of the border.” ICE has the authority to issue these orders without a judge present, Cameron said. If immigrants claim fear of return, they are then entitled to an interview, the order will be rescinded, and their case will go to a judge to review their full asylum claim.
■ People whose cases are heard by an immigration court can receive a deportation order from a judge.
■ People who miss their scheduled appearance in immigration court can be issued a deportation order after not showing up. It’s common for people to be unaware — or never notified — of their court dates, leading them to miss the appearance and then be issued deportation orders.
2. There many reasons undocumented immigrants miss court.
Undocumented immigrants might not receive notice of their court date when they arrive at the border — in part because people are being processed so quickly, Cameron said. Others might fall prey to bogus lawyers who don’t provide correct information.
“I don’t think it’s fair to assume that everybody with an outstanding removal order has already had their day in court, or has intentionally chosen not to go,” he said.
“Lack of notification is a real issue,” Cameron said. “People are being released from ICE custody without their court dates and they’re just told, ‘You’re going to receive one at some point,’ and ICE will get their address wrong or doesn’t get a proper address or doesn’t tell them to find out about their court date.”
The immigration process is difficult to navigate without a lawyer, Cameron said, but in immigration court, you do not have a constitutional right to a lawyer and won’t have one appointed for you.
3. Overstaying a removal order is not a crime.
There’s a trend, Cameron said, to call people with removal orders “criminals,” but “unlawful presence in the United States is not a crime.” Unlawful presence, Cameron said, is the same as leaving your car at a parking meter for too long.
“It’s not a crime,” he said. “It’s a violation of an administrative statute.”
4. Constitutional due process isn’t available.
Immigration court is an administrative court, which means “you don’t have constitutional due process,” Cameron said.
“You don’t have a right to an attorney, you don’t have a right to cross examine. . . . All the things that you associate with criminal court, generally those constitutional rights that you’re familiar with, don’t apply,” he said.
The Justice Department process is “being notified of your court date, and if you don’t go to your court date, then due process has been served,” he said.
Cameron said it’s difficult to get an immigration court case reopened after it’s been closed.
5. Collateral arrests are a possibility.
The Trump administration has changed the policy on collateral arrests during ICE raids — that is, how to treat people found on the premises of a raid site who are deportable but not part of the actual targeted group.
“It used to be that they had the discretion to take in people that they found on site,” Cameron said. However, “now the directive has changed such that it is basically mandatory that they take in everybody that they find on the premises, if they’re deportable.”
While collateral arrests are a risk, Cameron warned against stirring up hysteria and fear. “I don’t want to scare people,” he said. “But it’s very important to know who lives in your house and what their immigration history is.”
6. People with legal immigration status are safe.
Anyone with a green card or Temporary Protected Status or who is a “Dreamer” will not be affected by the threatened ICE raids, unless they’re on the premises and have a deportable criminal record, Cameron said.
7. You have a right to see the warrant; you do not have to open the door to ICE.
Cameron said people targeted in ICE raids have the right to see the warrant; he also noted that they do not have to open the door.
“I’m not encouraging people to get into a standoff with ICE. I don’t want any trouble. I don’t want people risking their own safety or that of their families, but, at the same time, you don’t have to open your door to ICE,” he said. “People should know that because these are not criminal warrants.”
Cameron, nevertheless, said it’s in everyone’s best interest to comply peacefully.
If you choose not to open your door, be prepared to ask the agent to slip the warrant under the door so you can examine it carefully and ensure it’s valid by looking for your name, your address, and a signature. You can also meet the agents or officers outside. Cameron said that’s a safe approach to take if you’re concerned about other people in the home.
8. How to know if you need help
If you were stopped at the border and then released, you were probably supposed to go to immigration court. Cameron suggested undocumented immigrants call 800-898-7180 with their nine-digit alien number in hand and go through a safe, automated system to find out if they have a court date or a removal order against them. The system has prompts in English and Spanish.
Immigrants with removal orders need to hire an immigration lawyer. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has an online tool available at www.ailalawyer.com that allows you to search for a lawyer in your area.