Santa Clara County officials, bracing for a potential wave of immigration raids, denounced the campaign.
As part of a national sweep, the planned raids will target undocumented men, women and children, as well adults who immigrated to the U.S. alone as children.
“It is discouraging to learn about the … continuation of immigration raids targeting Central American families and unaccompanied minors,” county supervisor Dave Cortese said in a statement. “Those who are being or have been removed are returning to dire situations in their home countries and often face violence or imminent death.”
Reuters reports that the operation is expected to be the largest since President Barack Obama took office. It follows on the heels of raids carried out over two days in January that targeted Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.
Local leaders have at times had a contentious relationship with federal immigration authorities. The county has a dedicated Office of Immigrant Relations, which prioritizes the needs of its foreign-born residents over demands from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Cortese and the Board of Supervisors called on federal immigration officials to stop dividing families and follow the county’s example in regards to immigrant integration.
Census data from 2013 shows that 53 percent of foreign-born county residents are U.S. citizens, while two-thirds of families include both immigrants and their children.
“Most immigrant families are crossing the south border because they are escaping extreme violence or even death threats, and risk their lives in search of a better conditions for them and their loved ones,” said Maria Love, manager of the county Office of Immigrant Relations. Deporting undocumented citizens, she added, is not the way to fix the broken immigration system.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez said immigration raids and deportations put undocumented families in fear, which limits their ability to become productive members of the community.
“Residents of this county, regardless of immigration status, must be allowed to thrive and contribute to the greater good,” she said.
The county already has a policy against cooperating with ICE. For the past five years, the county has refused to detain jailed non-citizens for customs officials any longer than required, as long as the charges do not include violent or sexual crimes. The policy has stirred up controversy, but the county reaffirmed it in 2013 and again in 2014 despite backlash against so-called “sanctuary city” laws.