AUSTIN (KXAN) — As uncertainty grows about how local and federal agencies are handling immigration issues, rumors are flying about possible “massive” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids coming to Central Texas, but some in the community are calling those claims wrong and irresponsible.
“I think the noise is getting a little out of control,” said Kevin Lashus, an immigration lawyer and former prosecutor for Homeland Security who specialized in handling deportations. Lashus worked in terror prosecution for six years, now he works to defend those who are in the country illegally.
He’s not discounting fears on immigrants being sent back to their countries, he’s simply saying inciting more fear is not the way to go. “It’s a little too early to be that anxious about that kind of activity. We need to be a little bit more mindful of what kind of impact rumors have on communities.”
When asked about the possibilities of ICE going door to door in Central Texas looking for immigrants, Lashus says it’s possible but highly unlikely.
“What I can tell you, at least from my experience, is that we don’t have the logistical capacity to be able to have widespread, communal, in the simplest terms, raids. Is it out of the realm of possibility? It’s not. [We have] a new administration. We don’t know what those directives are going to be. From my experience, I think rational people will be given priorities and will come up with a rational approach to handling problems.”
Lashus says he thinks fears stem from widespread work site enforcement actions that happened in 2006 and 2007, when ICE cracked down on 1,300 undocumented immigrants working at six meat processing plants across six states.
The chief of the Austin Police Department says laws forcing them to comply with immigration are not reasonable especially when the department is already stretched thing.
“If we are given the additional workload of enforcing immigration laws that again will put a further drain on our resources that are already stretched pretty thin,” said Chief Brian Manley.
Lashus says it is important to stay alert, but not fearful of imminent raids. He says many people on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should begin planning their next steps, in case the program is cut.
“We don’t know how it’s going to work out; what I do know is that the law makes it illegal for [employers] to continue to employ [DACA] folks beyond the date of the expiration on their current work authorization. There’s going to be pain associated with letting those folks go, but the reality is, I would prefer they follow the law than not follow the law.”
We checked with the Austin Police Department, they said if there were a raid, their officers would not be present. Travis County Sheriff’s Office has taken a stance against cooperating with ICE unless they are high-level criminals.