ICE says it doesn’t conduct ‘raids’ but fearful Valley immigrants remain ‘on high alert’

Even as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations failed to take form on a grand scale nationally Sunday, immigrant advocates in the Central Valley were not ready to breath easy.

“There’s no relief, even if something was to not happen,” said Ariana Martinez, a coordinator with Faith in the Valley’s Valley Watch Network. “We have to be continuously on high alert.”

Although Fresno was not on the list of cities expected to be targeted, undocumented residents still remain fearful of deportation, Martinez said. The New York Times reported that only a few arrests took place Sunday across a limited number of cities, but more sweeps would take place over the week at a smaller scale than originally planned.

Martinez had not heard of any immigration-related arrests in the central San Joaquin Valley on Sunday. She said volunteers in Fresno took to the streets to pass out know-your-rights information and to give support. The Valley Watch Network hotline has been open for people to call in if they spot ICE or need information or assistance.

“The hotline has been very quiet for the most part,” Martinez said, although dozens of calls have come in over the last few days from people wanting to know more information.

“Folks are very worried,” she said.

Martinez said the fear is keeping some undocumented residents inside their homes. “There are some community members who are trying to play it safe,” she said, but for the most part, “folks are trying to go about their daily lives.”

The ICE office on L Street in downtown Fresno was all quiet Sunday.

Paul Prince, an ICE spokesperson for Northern California, said he did not have statistics on arrests made Sunday. He issued a statement to The Bee:

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not conduct ‘raids, sweeps or checkpoints.’ ICE ... conducts targeted immigration enforcement every day in compliance with federal law and agency policy. Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of ICE ERO personnel, specific details related to enforcement operations will not/should not be released to the public.”

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said on Sunday that ICE does not notify local authorities of its business, and so she isn’t aware of anything happening in Fresno County. The same was true in Merced County where Sheriff Vern Warnke also said he hadn’t been informed of any ICE arrests in recent weeks.

“I have had zero contact from that agency,” Warnke said. “We are not assisting and we have not been asked to assist.”

Mims appeared on Fox News on Friday, where she voiced her support for the deportation of people who have been convicted of crimes and are in the country illegally.

“Let’s be clear,” Mims said on the show, “people who have received due process and have been ordered removed should be removed and relatively quickly.”

The Merced Sun-Star’s Andrew Kuhn contributed to this report.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo