Pledges by Mountain View and other Bay Area cities to stand by their immigrant communities could soon be tested under a sweeping new plan for deportations issued by President Donald Trump's administration.
A Department of Homeland Security memo issued on Monday, Feb. 21, revealed plans to expand the scope for removing undocumented immigrants. The new guidelines would include undocumented people who have fraudulently sought public benefits or have been charged with a criminal offense, even if they were not convicted. The plan also includes a catch-all clause to allow deportations for non-citizens who are deemed a risk to public safety or national security.
As the news spread this week, the ramifications rattled the local migrant community. On Tuesday night, Maria Marroquin, director of the Mountain View Day Worker Center, warned city officials that families and residents are now living under a constant state of fear. Many are reportedly preparing contingency plans, including writing up legal statements detailing who should take custody of their children or property in the event they are removed from the country.
"We're in a state of emergency," Marroquin said. "We have a lot of fear in our community. I believe the city needs to take care of this situation."
Even before the new rules were publicized, tensions were at a high point. Those fears went into overdrive last week as rumors began spreading across the Bay Area of federal agents conducting immigration raids. The reports, spread mainly on social media, warned of checkpoints and random roundups by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in areas of in Mountain View, as well as Richmond, Oakland, Contra Costa County and San Carlos.
But those reports of sweeping roundups were false, said Ilyce Shugall, an attorney with the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. While much uncertainly hangs over undocumented residents, there have been no verified reports of ICE engaging in mass roundups so far, she said.
"There's so much panic in the community right now, and then these rumors start spreading because people are freaked out," she said. "It's a real challenge to informative because we're in unprecedented territory -- this is a situation where we don't know what's going to happen."
ICE officials told the Voice last week that they do not conduct mass immigrant roundups in Northern California. Any recent operations have targeted specific individuals who have been convicted of crimes such as drug trafficking, sex offenses or violent acts, said James Schwab, ICE spokesman for the Bay Area.
"We do not conduct indiscriminate raids or sweeps for undocumented residents," he said. "I get it -- ICE operations are not popular -- but putting out false information about raids is putting people in danger."
Schwab said his phone has been ringing nonstop with calls about new rumors of raids. For some reason, the rumor mill reached a "boiling point" last week with numerous stories of raids spreading around the same time, he said.
Few would dispute this hysteria is linked to President Trump, who campaigned on the promise of deporting illegal immigrants. Since taking office, he said he would move to immediately remove up to 3 million immigrants who have criminal records.
But it remains unclear whether immigration officials have stepped up their game. ICE officials say there has been no increase in arrests or operations in Northern California since the Trump administration took office. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced more than 680 immigrants had been detained across the country in operations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City.
So far in 2017, the rate of deportations could be actually be lower than it was under former President Barack Obama's administration. During fiscal year 2016, an average of about 1,250 individuals were removed from the country each week, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
But immigrant advocates are bracing for the possibility that ICE enforcement ramps up. The situation has been changing practically on a daily basis, Shugall said.
"We're trying to find that right balance between finding good quality information and trying to limit the panic," she said.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has set up a website for people to report confirmed raids and enforcement actions at . Meanwhile, Santa Clara County has pledged legal support for any undocumented immigrants who are at risk of being deported.