A five-day immigration enforcement surge has left some USC students fearful about the future of their families. The targeted raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Southern California have left many undocumented persons in custody.
Yaneiry Barrios, an undocumented student who fled from Guatemala with her mother because of domestic violence, said she is terrified something might happen to her. "The unknown is what I fear the most. What if there's a plan to go to the universities, or schools, and pick up the undocumented students there?"
Barrios doesn't want to return to Guatemala because she entered the country when she was only a year old and life in America is all she has known. She said that she has no experience with life in Guatemala and she and her mother wouldn't be able to survive because they would have to start with nothing.
Out of the 161 individuals detained, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said 151 had criminal records and five had final deportation orders. David Marin, the Field Office Director for ICE in Los Angeles, said that the individuals targeted in this operation, and all similar operations, are indicative of the kind of cases they prioritize for day-to-day enforcement.
The city of Los Angeles has repeatedly stood up for immigrants' rights against President Trump and his administration. The city has proposed a $10-million dollar fund to aid undocumented immigrants with legal fees, according to the LA Times. They will vote on moving $1 million into the fund later this year. As deportations are under federal jurisdiction, it is unclear what Los Angeles can do to protect undocumented immigrants.
The office of mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement in response to the raids, urging ICE to be more transparent about ongoing operations in Los Angeles: "Angelenos should not have to fear raids that are disruptive to their peace of mind. […] The administration should take a just, humane, and sensible approach that does not cause pain for people who only want to live their lives and raise their families."
Despite Garcetti's statement, some undocumented immigrants are still worried about their fates. Sonia Chavez-Meza, another USC student, is afraid of what could happen to her family if her undocumented mother is deported. Her grandmother has papers, but cannot speak English, and without her mother, Chavez-Meza worries that she may become homeless. In Mexico, her mother could die because of a severe heart condition, Chavez-Meza said. She has only been able to receive treatment because they live near the Mayo clinic.
Chavez-Meza said that people don't understand that her status isn't a choice. "No one chooses to be undocumented, so it's kind of hard to see the lack of human compassion. I shouldn't have to justify my mom or my family as being human."
Like Chavez-Meza, Juan Martinez thinks that Americans have lost the ability to empathize with undocumented immigrants' plight. He is concerned for his stepmother, and what could happen to his younger siblings.
"I think that, in a sense, most Americans have lost their soul," Martinez said. "[They're] just based purely on economics, on numbers, and false economics which say that if you deport immigrants the economy would benefit."
Barrios added that the deportations prompted her to call her lawyer, and she plans on contacting legal services at USC.
"I want to be prepared and have a plan," Barrios said. "What if my mom gets deported? What if I get deported, what's going to happen?"
Barrios said she is focusing on her studies to cope with her fear. She doesn't want it to affect her education because she believes, as an undocumented person, pursuing education is the only way to prove she is in America for the right reasons.
"The only way you can show you're not here to commit crimes is to pursue a higher education, get educated, and fight back," Barrios said.