The ACLU, the non-profit rights group whose membership and donations have surged since it launched legal actions against President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration, told ABC News today that it plans on creating a “rapid response team” to combat a potential rise in deportations under the current administration.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency operating under the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for handling deportations, arrested more than 160 foreign nationals this week in Los Angeles, the majority of whom had criminal records.
ICE LA Field Office Director David Marin said in a press call that the raids conducted were not related to Trump’s executive order, and described them as being “nothing out of the ordinary.”
Between 2009 and 2015 the Obama administration removed more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders, shattering records, and earning him the nickname “Deporter in Chief” among rights groups and activists.
As recently as 2016, Obama drew sharp criticism from some Democrats over ordering raids that targeted women and children, according to Reuters.
But ACLU senior attorney Lee Gelernt told ABC News that while they were “not pleased” with Obama’s handling of deportation raids, his group is concerned that the Trump administration will expand those efforts.
The rapid response team would bring together the ACLU, private law firms and local community groups to ensure that individuals facing deportations have access to counsel right away.
“This administration is just getting started and we’re anticipating much worse,” Gelernt said in a phone interview, citing the language Trump uses about immigrants as his reasoning for his concern that Trump’s approach could be more severe than Obama’s. “His rhetoric is already scaring a lot of people in immigrant communities.”
In September, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the official union representing ICE’s 5,000 federal immigration officers and law enforcement support staff, endorsed Trump’s campaign for president. It was an endorsement that he highlighted frequently on the campaign trail.
The ACLU have received nearly $80 million in online contributions alone since the election, according to the Associated Press, which also reported that the group’s membership rates have doubled during the same time.