Immigration law experts are warning Kenyans living in the US illegally to avoid places and situations that would bring them into direct contact with or expose them to American immigration officers ahead of planned countrywide raids beginning Sunday.
Speaking to Nation on Friday, the Kenyan attorneys advised the Kenyan community in the US to take President Donald Trump's threat to deport millions of illegal immigrants seriously.
"Any non-US citizen (including a Green Card holder) can be arrested by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for any immigration violation. One of the most common reason for arrest is usually criminal activities. The most common criminal act that leads to these arrests is Driving Under Influence (DUI). My advice to our fellow countrymen in the US during these times of heightened vigilance is avoid criminal activities--DUI and domestic violence; avoid local and state violations, including traffic violations and if you are not in good status, ensure you have consulted an experienced immigration attorney for the available legal options to regularise your stay and start taking steps towards that," said North Carolina-based attorney Charles Wanjohi.
President Trump has directed ICE agents to conduct a mass roundup of migrant families that have received deportation orders, an operation that is likely to begin with pre-dawn raids in major US cities today, according to three US officials with knowledge of the plans.
Towards the end of the week, there was heightened anxiety among Kenyans living in the US with each taking turns to warn their family and friends to avoid going to places that are considered risky areas.
Through social media posts, Kenyans are making sure their compatriots are made aware of the impending raids. "We can't assume that everybody is aware of the planned raids. Some people work almost around the clock and that's the reason we are sharing this information about the planned raids," said Mr Sam Omari, a Kenyan resident of Jersey City, New Jersey.
The "family op," as it is referred to at ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, is slated to target up to 2,000 families facing deportation orders in as many as 10 US cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, Attorney Sarah Wairimu Brooks said those with deportation orders and even those with just expired visas would be advised to stay away from their homes or avoid letting into their house just anybody. "Most likely the ICE agents would have warrants of arrest but what good is that warrant if there's nobody at home to arrest?" she posed.
Large-scale immigration enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets, but Trump's tweet on Monday blew the cover off the roundup in advance.
It's believed that there are thousands of Kenyans living in the US without proper legal status who are susceptible to these raids. While majority of them stay underground avoiding situations where they are exposed to law enforcement, some--especially the youth-- engage in risky behaviors such as domestic violence, DUI and lawlessness that puts them into direct contact with law enforcement.