It’s becoming a fairly predictable national pattern.
First come the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids aimed at detaining undocumented individuals and illegal aliens.
Afterwards frightened family members seek help when a loved one is removed, and often need advice about how to go on.
It’s also happening at the state and local level.
And for the second time this year, the Eastern Panhandle has been part of this kind of targeted immigration action.
An ICE spokesman confirmed via email that deportation officers “conducted targeted enforcement actions in Martinsburg during the week of Sept. 18.”
An exact number of arrests, charges and disposition of individuals has not yet been provided by the agency.
But the latest local roundups have not gone unnoticed.
Catholic Charities West Virginia took quick action after first getting calls last week at their Martinsburg office.
The calls began Monday, and less than a day later staffers had organized (and were beginning to advertise via social media) a public training session.
As a result, the Los Amigos Initiative volunteer training will be held Thursday, 1-3 p.m., at the Martinsburg Public Library.
Volunteers will learn how to work with families who’ve had a loved one detained.
Folks are already signing up for the event. Individuals who speak both English and Spanish are especially needed, but being bilingual is not required.
“We are getting phone calls because people don’t know what to do,” said eastern regional director Trina Bartlett.
“And our fear was that there were going to be even more people who had no place to turn after the local raids that happened this week.”
Volunteers will also be trained how to do an initial assessment of family needs.
“Are they going to be able to stay housed during this crisis period? Are they going to have food, and are there going to be issues with having kids in school? Those kinds of things are important,” Bartlett said.
Attorney Brittany Young, case manager for Catholic Charities’ Eastern Panhandle Immigration and Rural Outreach Office, will speak at the training.
Young won’t give legal advice, but will talk generally about the detainment process.
“This is absolutely a scary experience to all at once just have a member of your family gone. Obviously there is a need for services for the person who’s detained, but then we also need to think about the family members left behind,” she said.
Local homes and some businesses have been part of the raids.
“It’s definitely becoming more real to people, even if it is a neighbor or coworker who is impacted by this kind of enforcement action.”
An Eastern Panhandle resident’s social media post said her children continue to suffer after seeing their father taken from the family’s home.
“Legalities aside, how do you handle the aftermath of all this? And how do you do it in a way that doesn’t cause further issues for the family?”
“We are trying to figure out how to humanely think through our immigration system and how it functions. Because at the end of the day we are talking about people,” Young said.
Depending on the number of arrests, detainees are sometimes temporarily held at the Eastern Regional Jail before being sent to a facility in York, Pennsylvania.
“Especially now, there is fear because people just don’t know day to day what’s going to happen. Even if you are in status, even if you have a green card or visa, there’s an uneasy feeling. This increased fear is not just among those who are undocumented,” she said.
Last spring, 248 people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware were arrested during a multi-state operation targeting criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and other immigration violations, according to an ICE press release.
The arrests were made from Feb. 27 through March 10 by existing, established fugitive operations teams.
“ICE does not conduct sweeps, checkpoints or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” the release reads.