by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
LOS ANGELES — Community leaders and elected officials are trying to verify credible stories of how federal authorities are carrying out their job, with immigration raids and arrests spiking since President Trump was inaugurated.
For the past few weeks, members of the Senate and Congress have been visiting constituents, holding town-hall meetings with a huge topic: immigration.
Congresswoman Nanette Barragan (D-44) represents Southern California.
The Mexican-American lawmaker sits on the Department of Homeland Security’s subcommittee on oversight and management.
Barragan met with immigrant rights advocates in Los Angeles to talk about the growing concern over immigration raids.
“I myself have spoken to the ICE agent in charge of this area, and he has reassured me that this is not happening,” said Barragan. “He has reassured me that they are not staking out at churches, that he is not staking out at schools. I tell people if you hear incidences call us first. Let me check it out before you spread something on social media. Because if it’s happening I want video… names, photos, so I can hold them accountable.”
While lawmakers make their rounds, the rumor mills have been ongoing within the Filipino communities.
The Pilipino Workers Center told BA in an investigation that it has been getting texts of people claiming they’ve heard of raids going on at local Filipino businesses.
“We are trying to find out if it’s really true or not. Verifying,” said PWC’s Lolit Andrada Lledo.
In an ongoing investigation before jumping to conclusions, BA reached out to to workers and managers of local Filipino businesses, the sites of these rumored raids.
One grocery store says they did received at least two phone calls claiming to be immigration, but the clerk said those callers did not seem to be credible.
“Sabi nila, I’m an immigration officer,” said the anonymous clerk. “We’d like to inform you we’re coming to the store today. What time, sabi nya wala na. I’d like to speak to the manager… and by the time na transfer yung call nya. Wala na yung call.”
A spokesperson for a different Filipino chainstore told BA that despite the rumors, no immigration officials have contacted any of their branches, whether on the phone or in person.
They say while they do verify the immigration status of their employees upon hiring, they do not expect any type of raids at their stores.
The LA Philippine consulate has not received any notifications of Filipinos swept up on any of the recent raids.
“I don’t know if it’s part of the plan to create terror and fear among community members,” said Lledo. “Let us be responsible and not spread rumors or news that aren’t really verified… [fake news]; just to make people more scared.”
If immigrations and customs officials does carry out a public raid, elected officials will be ready to investigate.
“I think part of this goes to the whole know your rights,” says Barragan. “People knowing that no one has the right to ask you your immigration status. Knowing that you collect names, and if people are seeing this, please take photos, get videos, send it to us…we should not be seeing this happen publicly.”
In Los Angeles, PWC will be hosting a forum at their center, explaining to undocumented Filipinos what their rights are if immigration officers do approach them at home or at work.