"Barima, I've not been out this whole week"
News this week that federal agents have targeted six US states in a series of immigration enforcement raids has intensified growing fear and anxiety in the Ghanaian immigrant community — even among families with legal status.
"Barima, I've not been out this whole week" said a Ghanaian illegal in Chicago
"I have to lie low, since I'm not ready to go back home yet. I'll go one day but not now", he continued
Social media was abuzz with rumors, and reports of roundups and immigrant rights groups were poised for increased enforcement promised by President Donald Trump.
Federal immigration authorities arrested hundreds of unauthorized immigrants in at least a half-dozen states last week. Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country without legal status.
Trump's order expanded the list of deportation priorities to include any noncitizen who is charged with a criminal offense of any kind or who is suspected of committing criminal acts, fraud or willful dishonesty while interacting with immigration officials, is the subject of a pending order of removal or has been previously deported and reentered the country.
The order gave much broader leeway to ICE officers in deciding whether someone posed “a risk to public safety” and therefore could be detained.
Chicago's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office made more than 200 arrests across six states — Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri — during an operation that began Feb. 4 and concluded Friday, said spokeswoman Gail Montenegro. She declined on Friday evening to say if there was a surge recently in the operation. In an emailed statement, however, ICE officials said the operation was routine.
But the operation's timing less than one month into Trump's administration has led to a climate of helplessness, neighbors say.