Immigration agents show up in Southwest Florida migrant farmworker community

Florida Immigrant Coalition
Immigration agents detain woman after searching bus. Photo by Florida Immigrant Coalition

Though the Trump administration has not identified where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will be conducting raids to deport undocumented immigrants across the U.S. this weekend,  ICE agents showed up Friday morning in the Southwest Florida migrant farmworker community of Immokalee, the Naples Daily News reports.

Immokalee is about 40 miles from Naples, and it is home to thousands of workers who pick vegetables and citrus at South Florida farms, and some who work at sugar cane processing facilities.

Trump administration officials have said that this Sunday they will deport migrants who are already under “removal orders’ – orders to deport back to their home countries – signed by an immigration judge. Miami, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Houston and Florence, Arizona have the most removal orders, based on addresses listed in court documents, according to a new study by Stateline, the news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

On CNN Thursday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, said he doesn’t want violent criminals in his city, but “aside from that, we, as a city, are a city of immigrants.” He also said that he had yet to hear anything from the federal government about who might be targeted by ICE.

“Frankly, we’re in the dark. I don’t know how whatever the crisis is on the southern border relates to the city of Miami,” he said.

South Florida Democratic state Rep. Cindy Polo was among several state lawmakers to speak out about the ICE raids during a call with reporters Friday.

“As a member of the Miami-Dade delegation, we are ground zero for a lot of the immigrant population, and we are seeing in our very own backyards the panic and fear that is residing within our residents,” Polo added.

Central Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto called the raids political “red-meat” for President Trump’s political base.

“Ironically, by doing it he is putting ICE agents and other law enforcement in harm’s way by announcing these things,” Soto said on a conference call Friday morning. “This is entirely unnecessary. We don’t need a spectacle of a giant raid across the nation.”

When asked to elaborate what he meant by putting ICE agents in harm’s way, Soto said, “generally you don’t project an ICE raid in advance, because it gives folks the ability to prepare and potentially increases the chances of a dangerous conflict.”

In the community of South Miami, city commissioners voted this week to hire an attorney to handle a legal challenge to the state’s new “anti-sanctuary cities” law.

The law calls for all local law-enforcement agencies to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials, including holding people who have been arrested for even minor crimes so that authorities can check their immigration status.

In reaction to the South Miami commission’s move, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and the sponsor of the anti-sanctuary city bill in the Florida House, Sarasota Rep. Joe Gruters, wrote on his Facebook page this week that he was “disgusted to see a city in Florida use tax-dollars to protect criminals who are in our country illegally!”

“My Sanctuary City Ban, which was signed into law by our Governor Ron DeSantis, isn’t just legal, it’s the right thing to do!” Gruters wrote.

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