ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Despite down pouring rain, a crowd of hundreds gathered at Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando on Friday night to air some grievances against those directing America's current immigration policies.
Organizers said the rally was one of nearly 800 happening across the country, calling on the Trump Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to make serious changes. Many voices in the crowd shouting "shame" at the mentions of conditions at boarder detention facilities, including those that are reportedly still separating children from their parents.
"America is better than this," shouted one speaker.
It wasn't lost on the crowd that the rally was starting what could shake out to be an explosive weekend on the immigration front. President Donald Trump has warned of massive immigration sweeps. ICE acting director Matthew Albence said the efforts will target 10 major U.S. cities, and targets were on an "accelerated docket" of immigration court cases for predominantly Central Americans who recently arrived at the U.S. border in unprecedented numbers.
Similar operations occurred in 2016 under President Barack Obama, and in 2017 under Trump.
Administration officials have said they are targeting about 2,000 people, which would yield about 200 arrests, based on previous crackdowns. However, President Trump has said on Twitter that his agents plan to arrest millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
Orlando immigrant rights advocates say that possibility is striking a lot of fear even in the local population.
"All of Florida is jurisdiction for ICE," said Christopher Cuevas from the group QLatinX. His group works to assist mostly LGBTQ members of the Latino community; many who are dealing with complex immigration situations. Cuevas said now those folks are fearful ICE could come after them unprompted. "Who are concerned about driving to work, who are concerned about taking their kids to school, who are concerned whether they can go shopping," he said. Orlando immigration attorneys reported similar concerns amongst their clients Friday. Many of them are joining the ACLU in advising those folks to prepare for possible ICE interaction, know their rights, and don't open the door for anyone without a legal warrant signed by a judge. Previous ICE raids have been teased by the president in recent weeks without actually panning out. On Friday during a roundtable event in Orlando, Republican Senator Rick Scott acknowledged the possible raids, saying that legal immigration is fine but it must be done legally. "Ya know, we're an immigration state," said Scott. "We want people to come here to our country legally and we have to enforce our laws."