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Rumors Of Immigration Raids, Checkpoints In San Diego Are Largely Unfounded

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection truck is shown parked next to fence at F...

Credit: Marielena Castellanos

Above: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection truck is shown parked next to fence at Friendship Park in this undated photo.

Rumors of increased immigration raids and checkpoints in San Diego County are causing widespread panic among immigrant communities, but officials and community leaders told KPBS that many of the reports are false.

The rumors are circulating on social media, primarily among residents of the North County. Some immigrants have become unwilling to leave their houses, go to work or drive their children to school.

Many reports of ramped-up immigration raids and checkpoints in San Diego County are false, according to immigration lawyers, federal officials and community leaders.

This Facebook post falsely warns of Border Patrol presence outside of Northgate González Market in City Heights using a photo of a Border Patrol vehicle no longer in use by the agency, Feb. 15, 2016.

"People are unnecessarily incarcerating themselves," said immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs. "The immigrant community is panicking for no good reason."

She said Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity may increase in the future, but it is currently no different than it was several months ago. Jacobs recommended that immigrants go about their daily lives as they normally would rather than succumb to unnecessary stress.

Several national media outlets ran stories on Monday reporting that the Department of Homeland Security arrested 680 people last week, without including comparison figures. This falsely suggested to the public that the latest arrest figures represented an increase.

Jacobs said that during the Obama administration and previous administrations, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people were routinely deported in a single week.

She said that if immigrants are detained, they should not sign any documents that they don't understand and that they should be aware of their right to an immigration hearing.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told KPBS in an emailed statement that the agency's activity continues as normal, and that rumors of widespread traffic stops in the North County are "completely baseless."

A group called Alianza Comunitaria, which has more than 17,000 followers on Facebook, has a team that goes out to fact-check claims about immigration checkpoints and raids. It was founded in 2009 when large-scale raids started happening in the North County under the Obama administration.

Ricardo Favela, the group’s coordinator, said the only difference in immigration activity since President Trump took office is an increase in Border Patrol vehicles being seen on State Route 78 in the North County. Favela said he thinks the increased visibility may be why people are so scared.

“(Border Patrol) is driving by heavily populated communities, places where people are going to work, people are going to school, people are going to church. So this creates a lot of concern from the community," he said. "It is creating a lot of misinformation and fear."

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