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No Plans For Large-Scale Deportation Raids in New England, But Immigrants Still Live In Fear

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Via The Associated Press
ICE officials arrest a foreign national in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 2017.

Reports of large scale, nationwide deportation raids are stoking fear in Massachusetts immigrant communities. Immigrants — both those with legal status and those living here illegally — are questioning exactly who is vulnerable for deportation.

With his executive order on Jan. 25, President Trump expanded the priorities of immigration officials in terms of who to focus on for removal.

New England ICE officials said in an email that they are not conducting the kinds of operations here that were recently seen in other parts of the country.

But, in a statement ICE officials went on to say: "Every day, as part of routine operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations teams target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation's immigration laws."

Executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Eva Millona, says that's made it difficult to know for certain what to expect from local ICE agents.

"The office here is not conducting any large scale raids as far as we know. However, because of the change in priorities, they're out more on the street so that's where we're hearing from people that, you know, the visibility, it's really higher," Millona said.

The priorities for deportation were expanded to include those with final removal orders, anyone with a criminal conviction, as well those charged but not yet convicted of a crime.

Millona, the immigration advocate, says the uncertainty around the implementation of the executive order can lead immigrants living here illegally to seek legal advice from unqualified people.

"People being taken advantage of, money schemes, the wrong information, filing the wrong paperwork," she listed. "And this has happened before to many families."

Millona discourages people from going to notaries public, but instead suggests seeking help from qualified immigration lawyers.

This story was reported by Vermont Public Radio's Kathleen Masterson for the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.