HOMESTEAD, FL — A rally and candlelight vigil took place Friday outside the Homestead temporary shelter for unaccompanied children as President Donald Trump hinted that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were prepared to carry out a series of raids this weekend targeting undocumented immigrants in at least 10 major cities, including nearby Miami.
Ingrid Beeman, who owns a Pilates studio in South Miami, brought her daughter, Julia, to the rally to show support for undocumented immigrants who will be targeted by the raids.
“I thought it was really important especially before Sunday,” she said holding a candle with her daughter. “This weekend had a huge bearing on my decision to come down. But to actually be able to come and be part of [it], was important to me. I’m so glad I came.”
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Beeman’s daughter, Julia, will be a junior at the School for Advanced Studies when classes resume next month but she happily gave up one of her summer nights to attend Friday’s rally with her mom.
“I was not dragged. She asked if I wanted to go,” the 15-year-old explained. “I think that everyone being here and showing support, and showing that they will hopefully vote to outlaw a lot of things that are happening, will make a difference.”
Mothers and daughters, retired people and young families were among the throngs of protesters outside the Homestead shelter. They shouted: “We love you. We see you,” and “hola niños” as they walked by the facility carrying signs, candles and flashlights.
Thousands of undocumented families are expected to be targeted in the immigration raids at major cities from one coast to the other under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation backed by President Trump. The raids have sparked outrage among immigration advocates and even members of the Republican president’s own party.
Meanwhile, bilingual fliers telling immigrants of their rights were distributed in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami as some people said they were planning to stay indoors as much as possible.
“People come into our country illegally. We’re taking them out legally,” insisted President Trump when pressed by reporters in Washington, D.C. to say if the raids would take place this weekend. “We’re focused on criminals.”
The Homestead event was held in coordination with the grassroots Lights for Liberty movement. A number of groups around the country also held Lights for Liberty vigils Friday night.
“We live in Homestead where the threat has always been constant,” said WeCount community organizer Guadalupe Delacurc, who helped put together Friday’s event. “With Trump’s announcement to start raids on the weekend, it just further targets our undocumented and immigrant communities in Homestead.”
She said such raids are nothing new for her community. “For many, many years Homestead has always been a target of ICE,” she told Patch. “There has always been separations of families in Homestead. There have always been pickups made from ICE agents in both working areas and in individuals’ own homes.”
She added that the attention that’s been focused on the Homestead shelter is raising awareness of the plight of the undocumented children who have been sent there.
“I’m hoping that the presidential candidates brought more attention to the prescient issues of the community and were not using that as a platform for them to win votes,” she added.
Trump praised recent efforts by Mexico to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants from coming across America’s southern border under threat of new U.S. tariffs.
ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias in Miami told Patch that he is unable to discuss any plans by the agency to conduct raids in Miami.
“Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations,” he told Patch. “As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
Yglesias said that 90 percent of the people arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in fiscal year 2018 had either a criminal conviction, pending criminal charges, were deemed to be an ICE fugitive or someone who illegally reentered the country after previously being removed.
“However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States,” he added.
President Trump first announced the raids with a June 17 Twitter post, saying authorities would start removing “millions of illegal aliens.” But he said days later that the operation had been delayed to give Congress a chance to address problems at the southern U.S. border.
The Homestead shelter has become a focal point in the national debate over undocumented immigrants.
“I’m Jewish and I think there’s definitely a parallel of what’s going on here and concentration camps,” explained Leah Messing, who attended Friday’s rally and vigil in Homestead. “It’s important for me to not just be one of the people who’s sitting around talking about it, but to do something. I don’t know if I’m making a difference, but it makes me feel good to be here and to be out in the world protesting this.”
According to information posted on a Facebook page for the Homestead rally, the event was co-hosted by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, WeCount and American Friends Service Committee.
Chris Wingeier who is part Mexican and part Polish, said he attended Friday’s rally and vigil out of a concern for the undocumented children housed in the Homestead shelter.
“Being a third generation Mexican American, this really resonates with me, holding children against their will,” said Wingeier. “It really bothers me to see children separated from their parents.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told WPLG-TV that he was not briefed on the extent of any possible operations in his city.
“We have not been notified about the scale of the operation,” Suarez said. “Frankly, as mayor it’s difficult to be able to figure out what’s going to be happening in our city.”
President Trump spoke to reporters about the possible raids as he appeared outside the White House with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who announced his resignation amid growing public scrutiny over a deal he brokered with Florida Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein a dozen years ago when Acosta served as U.S. Attorney in Miami.
“Alex Acosta was a great Secretary of Labor,” said Trump. “There are so many good things that he didn’t want to distract from them.”
Patch editor Elizabeth Janney in Maryland contributed to this story.