PROVO, Utah – The recent immigration raids across Utah are causing undocumented immigrants to question local authorities and their motives, and many of them live in fear each day.
“It’s very scary,” a teenage immigrant said.
“It makes me feel uncomfortable,” another immigrant said.
Getting pulled over on the road may worry any driver, but for undocumented immigrants, it means the fear of being deported. Another unnamed illegal immigrant said he is always scared when he’s pulled over.
“I don’t know if they want to ask me for my papers or (if they’re) just going to ask me for my insurance,” he said.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, has deported more than 82 immigrants from Utah in the past couple of months. A recent ICE report shows arrests took place in 22 cities, starting in Salt Lake City with 26, all the way to Washington City with 1.
One immigrant in Provo said he is worried the police are seeking out “the undocumented” on the road.
“They say ‘Oh, so you don’t have papers because you have a privilege card to drive,'” he said.
Provo Police Lieutenant Brandon Post said the department stays out of federal immigration business.
“We don’t ask immigration status, we don’t participate in any kind of immigration or customs enforcement raids. That’s not what we do,” he said.
Post also said that this fear of local authorities can be very dangerous.
“Because these people are then afraid to come forward and report because of whatever their status may be,” he said.
Orem, American Fork, West Jordan and Salt Lake police departments all said the same thing as Provo: that they will not get involved in ICE raids unless the immigrant becomes an extreme harm or threat to their communities.
The same ICE report for the U.S. reveals that only 75% of the people deported in the past months have a criminal record. Out of the total 82 arrested individuals in Utah, 74 came from Mexico. This worries a young Mexican immigrant.
“I don’t feel safe at all,” she said.
She also said she is covered by President Obama’s “Dream Act” – the executive order that grants conditional residency to undocumented immigrants – but she is nervous she won’t be able to stay in the country much longer.
“I used to feel okay with it when Obama was the president, but now that Trump is the president, it gets really scary,” she said.
In regards to these concerns, attorney Gabriel Gil at the Utah Mexican Consulate clarified that only ICE can ask questions about legal status, and immigrants don’t have to answer to either authority.
“The local police (are) not allowed to ask you your legal status, but sometimes they do it. So you’re not compelled to answer any one of them,” Gil said.
He said for those with questions about how to get documentation, prepare for deportation, and work with federal agencies, the consulate offers many informative workshops. Visit their website here for more details on upcoming events.