After word got out about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) plans to conduct widespread raids across the country on Sunday, ICE agents appeared to scale back their plans. The enforcement agency is instead attempting a quieter—but just as damaging—approach to targeting immigrant families.

ICE is reportedly targeting approximately 2,000 people in these raids. By all accounts, the agency originally intended to conduct the arrests simultaneously throughout large immigrant communities as a show of force. Instead, only a handful of arrests reportedly took place in a few cities across the country on Sunday. It’s unclear if the arrests are related to this specific operation.

The agency’s seeming last-minute change of plans occurred after advocates, news reports, and elected officials raised the alarm about the raids and how those targeted could protect themselves. Department of Homeland Security officials created a secondary plan to expand the arrests over a week.

Who Is Being Targeted in the Raids?

Sources report that these raids are primarily aimed at Central American families who have already been ordered removed. Most of the parents and children are recent arrivals to the United States who came during the uptick of people fleeing from dangerous conditions in Central America. Many were ordered removed for failing to appear in court. However, advocates caution that many families likely did not receive adequate notice of their hearing and may have been ordered removed without ever knowing they were supposed to appear in court.

The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to deter Central American asylum seekers from migrating to the United States, with limited success. Mass raids are the latest part of that effort.

Where Are the Raids Taking Place?

Raids are reportedly slated to take place in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. New Orleans is also on the list, but enforcement operations were suspended at least through the weekend as the city prepared for Tropical Storm Barry.

Multiple cities are taking action to protect their immigrant communities. Several city officials have announced that their local police force will not cooperate with ICE during the raids. Other cities are setting up legal defense funds for those caught up in enforcement operations.

How Will the Raids Affect Communities?

Research shows that raids have a negative social and economic effect on communities. Whether ICE arrests large numbers of people or not, the threat of raids alone is worrying for many communities. Many immigrants, regardless of their status, refused to leave their homes over the weekend for fear of immigration enforcement.

Officials in a small agricultural town in Florida say children in the community—many of whom are U.S. citizens—missed summer day care and educational programs over the weekend because their parents were scared to take them out. Other immigrants say they are afraid to go to work during the week. Many will be forced to go anyway.

“I can’t stay home all day,” one father told the New York Times. “My children need food. I need to pay rent. We have to keep living our lives. We know that there is a risk we won’t see our children when we close our apartment door. I really don’t want to think about it.”

Photo by Charles Reed