US immigration arrests rise — and neighbors sign up to witness ICE operations

Monica Campbell/UPI

Immigrant communities are organizing beyond protests.

The idea of immigration rapid response teams started with Violeta Roman’s story. It was before dawn in 2014, and Roman was already at work — the early shift at a café in San Francisco. Then her daughter called, sobbing.

“I asked her what was wrong,” say Roman. “‘The police are here,’ she said. ‘They are taking grandpa away.'”

Roman asked a coworker to rush her home, but it was too late. Her father, from Mexico, was already cuffed and being driven away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. It was a quick operation — 15 minutes.

Roman turned to her church for help finding a lawyer and community members who would volunteer to accompany her dad to immigration court.

She vowed to find a way to support other people facing deportation and family splits. That vow helped spark what are called rapid response networks — which are now being replicated in other cities across the US. These organizations are springing up especially as the Trump administration pushes to ramp up deportations, targeting “sanctuary cities” — those it accuses of limiting cooperation with federal agents to shield undocumented immigrants — in particular.

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