On July 12, 2019, the government did something unusual: It announced that mass raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were about to take place over the weekend.
Most of the time, the government doesn't publicize such raids in advance. Doing so could, after all, hinder the effectiveness of the raids by warning immigrants without documentation or with expired paperwork to stay in hiding.
This time, however, the advance notice had a much bigger beneficial effect on the immigrant community. Prompted by activists of all kinds and people who disapprove of the current treatment of immigrants in this country, social media platforms got busy -- very busy -- and started sharing memes and posts that informed immigrants and their family members about their rights when ICE shows up to their door.
The net effect was startling. In many cases, the people reading those memes were the Americanized children, friends and relatives of the undocumented immigrants who were being targeted. They took the information they learned online to heart and responded with amazing displays of strength when ICE officers showed up.
The big raids that were promised never did happen. However, there were still numerous incidents over the last week where immigrants reported that they learned how to exercise their legal rights thanks to the social media campaigns that were prompted by the earlier threat of mass raids -- and the knowledge may have lasting repercussions (for the better) among the immigrant community.
For example, one 16-year-old held her ground even though ICE agents pounded on her family's door at one in the morning and then again just four hours later, demanding entrance. While she was born in the United States, her parents are both immigrants. She had learned from an Instagram post that the agents had no authority to enter the home without a warrant signed by a judge. When she demanded to see their warrant, the agents had nothing to show.
As one attorney advocate said, "The silver lining, if there is one, is to see how the terror under which people have lived for years has empowered them to formulate plans and organize."
If you or a loved one is facing deportation or possible immigration detention, find out more about your rights and the assistance that's available to you.