PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — President Donald Trump’s high stakes effort to target millions of undocumented immigrants has frayed the nerves of many North Shore residents.
“There’s tremendous fear, uncertainty and confusion over what is happening with the administration’s crackdown and it’s not just people from Muslim countries,” said Denzil Mohammed, a director at the Immigrant Learning Center, a Malden nonprofit that educates the public on the contributions of immigrants.
During the campaign, Trump promised to end immigration as we know it. This week, the president equipped the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, with the tools to potentially remove millions of undocumented residents from the country. The administration said serious criminals will be a top priority, but some are not so sure.
“People are worried and many of us are trying to figure out how to protect our families,” said Jose Palma, a Lynn resident who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago and works as an organizer at Neighbor To Neighbor, a local advocacy group. “Everyone is talking about what we should do if immigration enforcement officers show up at our homes and what kind of documents we must have to keep us safe.”
Juan Gonzalez, a Guatemalan native and founder of the American Latino Committee, said rumors are rampant about raids that may have been held in Lynn.
“The chief of police has assured me that this is not true, but people are still on edge,” he said.
Through a spokesman, Deputy Chief Michael Mageary said no ICE raids have been made in the city.
Typically, ICE agents notify the Lynn Police Department before coming to the city and inform them about any actions they intend to take, according to Lt. Rick Donnelly.
If an arrest is to be made, a Lynn police officer would accompany the ICE agent and the suspect would be taken to the police station for documentation before being sent to a federal facility, he said.
“We will assist ICE if they have a warrant, but we are not immigration officers and we don’t knock on doors asking residents if they are here legally,” Donnelly said.
An ICE spokesman confirmed the agency is not conducting any operations in Massachusetts.
Still, as part of its work, ICE officers target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of the country’s immigration laws, the spokesman said.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts is part of a global community and he has no plans to change enforcement measures when it comes to immigrants.
“We benefit enormously from the presence, the intelligence and vitality of foreign-born people in the commonwealth and we are going to work hard to remain a welcoming place for everyone,” Baker told The Item. “We have no intention of changing any of our policies.”
Mohammed said there’s confusion among newcomers over Trump’s aggressive immigration policies.
“Everything is happening so fast,” he said. “Many immigrants are questioning their futures in this country. Think of how damaging it would be for local economies of big cities where immigrants have moved in and are helping to sustain and rebuild them.”
A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms, found that Massachusetts immigrants play a key role in the state as taxpayers and consumers.
In 2014, immigrant-led households in the Bay State earned $36.8 billion, 15 percent of all income earned by Massachusetts residents that year, the survey said. With those earnings, the state’s foreign-born households contributed more than one in every seven dollars paid by residents in state and local tax revenues, payments that support schools, police and fire protection, the study found.
Through their individual wage contributions, immigrants also paid about $4.6 billion into the Social Security and Medicare programs that year, researchers found. By spending the money they earn at businesses such as hair salons, grocery stores and coffee shops, the study said immigrants also support small business owners and job creation in the communities where they live.
The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.