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Immigration Lawyers See Uptick In Arrests In Bay Area

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There are plans tomorrow for the arrests of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. People opposed to those arrests attended protests and vigils across the country last night. Attorneys in the Bay Area say that they saw more people being arrested this week, as Farida Jhabvala Romero of member station KQED reports.

FARIDA JHABVALA ROMERO, BYLINE: Immigrant advocate Luis Magana says, since Monday, he's been basically camped out in the parking lot of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center in Stockton, about an hour east of San Francisco. ICE agents will often bring detained migrants here before shipping them to longer term detention facilities or the Mexican border for deportation.

LUIS MAGANA: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMERO: Magana keeps a close watch on agency vans leaving or entering the black metal garage doors to the facility. He says, now there's lots of ICE activity.

MAGANA: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMERO: He says he posts updates on social media for farmworkers and day laborers fearful of reports that ICE will start arresting undocumented families on Sunday. Those news reports also had Gladys worried to come to this ICE office for a regular check-in. We're not using her last name because she fears it could hurt her asylum case.

GLADYS: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMERO: She says she's afraid that if she goes anywhere out on the street, she could be arrested, and she'd have to leave her 9-year-old daughter in the U.S.

GLADYS: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMERO: After Gladys left, four immigration attorneys emerged from the ICE building. They believe, in the Bay Area, there's already been an uptick in immigration arrests this week.

LUIS ANGEL REYES SAVALZA: Unfortunately, today, we weren't given access to people that were in that processing center.

ROMERO: Luis Angel Reyes Savalza is a pro bono attorney with several rapid-response networks that help immigrants fight deportation. But when lawyers called the Stockton office to try to reach clients, he says ICE wouldn't allow it. So the lawyers came in person to talk to a supervisor.

SAVALZA: The supervisor could not confirm or provide any information as to who was in that facility, despite the fact that we have credible sources that there have been arrests this week.

ROMERO: ICE declined to say if a large enforcement operation had begun in the region. But the ICE supervisor at the Stockton facility told the lawyers his officers would try to put attorney's calls through but only if they have at least the person's last name. Attorney Lisa Knox with Centro Legal de la Raza says the lawyers often don't get names.

LISA KNOX: We get calls from people who witnessed ICE detaining someone but weren't able to get a name or information.

ROMERO: Knox worries the problems they've had with reaching people facing deportation will be magnified in the event of mass arrests. For NPR News, I'm Farida Jhabvala Romero in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.