Days after rumors began to swirl that federal immigration agents were planning to conduct raids in Austin, advocates said as many as five were detained Thursday.
They were nabbed in separate, targeted arrests, likely as part of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts, said Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that opposes private prisons. Other arrests were reported around the country Thursday, including in Southern California, where protests have started.
“I’ve never heard of five people getting picked up in one day,” Caceres said in an interview with the Observer, adding that he’s lived in Austin for five years.
At an impromptu briefing, Reyna Alvarado said her husband, Francisco, was pulled over in East Austin and taken into custody Thursday morning on his way to his landscaping job. Standing outside the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, where her husband was processed hours earlier before being sent to a detention center, a weeping Alvarado said she feared for her daughter’s future. She said they fled Honduras about 10 years ago to escape gangs who had killed some of their family members.
Caceres said Alvarado described her husband’s arrest like “he was being hunted. … She said they knew where he lived, his job, his morning route.”
ICE agents reportedly detained two undocumented immigrants in Austin. A woman originally from Honduras said her husband was detained while he was working.
Caceres said the last time someone was arrested in the Austin area he knew of was in 2016, and that it involved “one or two people.” He said Grassroots received reports of five immigrants being detained in North and East Austin from families through a hotline.
ICE doesn’t typically comment on arrests and a phone call to the San Antonio field office was not answered Thursday night. ICE officials in California said the arrests there are routine, but advocates claim more than 100 people were taken into custody this week.
Across the country, immigrants and activists fear President Trump’s rhetoric is becoming reality.
“This might just be the beginning,” Caceres said. “Immigration [agents] have stepped up their tactics and we need to think about how we keep our friends and families protected, as well.”