California attorneys criticize pending ICE raids on Sunday, when processing centers are closed

Two delegations of California lawyers are specifically criticizing the day the pending ICE raids are set to occur across the country, saying that Sunday is a day when processing centers are closed, making it nearly impossible to help detainees. 

Hamid Yazdan Panah, the advocacy director for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice
The Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco, said  Assistant Field Office Director Richard Chang told a contingent of attorneys on Thursday that the 630 Sansome Street building is closed on Sundays and attorneys would have to follow up with detainees once they are processed and placed in detention if they are not deported the same day.

Bay Area communities brace for possible ICE raids planned for Sunday

According to Panah, Chang also refused the delegation's request that detainees be informed that free lawyers would be available for consultations. A similar refusal was received from officials at the Stockton ICE processing center, where a second delegation of lawyers went, Panah said.

"Legal assistance at ICE processing centers is a critical element in ensuring that individuals make informed decisions about their legal rights, and is often the difference between deportation and due process," said Eleni Wolfe-Roubatis of Immigrant Legal Defense, who was among the San Francisco delegation. "ICE seemed more concerned with their own protocols than upholding the constitutional rights of individuals in custody. We are making every effort to protect the due process rights of these individuals and ICE has the duty to do the same."

ICE would not answer questions about why the raids have to occur on days when processing centers are closed, or respond specifically as to why ICE agents wouldn't let detainees know about pro bono counsel. However, in an email sent to KTVU on Friday, ICE spokesman Matt Bourke sent this generic response:

"Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations. As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. In fact, 90 percent of aliens arrested by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations component in FY2018 had either a criminal conviction(s), pending criminal charge(s), were an ICE fugitive, or illegally reentered the country after previously being removed. However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and - if found removable by final order - removal from the United States."

The planned deportation operation of about 2,000 people and an unknown number of "collateral" people, was first postponed by President Donald Trump late last month. Now likely scheduled for this Sunday, the New York Times first reported, the raids would pursue people with final deportation orders, including families whose immigration cases were fast-tracked by judges in 10 major cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami.

The American Civil Liberties Union pre-emptively filed a lawsuit Thursday in an attempt to protect asylum seekers. The suit, filed in federal court in New York, argues that thousands of migrants fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were not allowed a fair chance to request asylum due but were still ordered removed from the country. They are asking that those individuals get another hearing.

Meanwhile, activists ramped up efforts to prepare by bolstering know-your-rights pocket guides, circulating information about hotlines and planning public demonstrations.

Vigils outside of detention centers and hundreds of other locations nationwide have already been occurring in the Bay Area and beyond.

More events, called "Lights for Liberty" are set for Friday in San Francisco at Powell and Market streets at 7 p.m., San Jose at City Hall at 7 p.m., and at Oakland's Lake Merritt Ampitheater at 7:30 p.m. for example, with even more protests planned for Saturday as well. For an entire list of "Lights for Liberty" events across the country, click here. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.