ATLANTA -- The national debate over immigration has trickled down to Georgia with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Atlanta office saying they have been getting a lot of calls the past few weeks.
But now they're also seeing many rumors spreading on social media about raids happening in metro Atlanta.
A ground swell of concern
The rumors have even forced the Brookhaven Police Department to post a clarification on its Facebook page.
"We are aware that ICE has been working in our city and surrounding cities," the department acknowledged. But the agency goes on to say it's not true that local police officers are involved in any of the current operations.
Of course, they explained that if ICE does ask for their help, they will help out.
Rumors strike fear
There are many other rumors you might have also seen on your timeline or heard. 11Alive even received a news tip Thursday saying.
“Apartments behind Woodward Elementary (Park Town and Marquis Crossing) and Cross keys High School are being raided by immigration," the tip said. "Word is that they are headed to the schools next to pick up the students of anyone detained."
ICE: This simply isn't true
But ICE officials say this is absolutely not true. They explained that they do not raid schools or churches. A spokesperson added that they also do not perform random raids, sweeps or checkpoints to catch illegal immigrants, either. Their operations are always targeted. That means that before agents leave the office, they know exactly who they are looking for and the location.
While some might report seeing more ICE officers out in their communities, an ICE spokesperson says it has the same number of officers and the department is not doing anything differently compared to what it did before the new administration took office.
Perception vs. reality
The spokesperson put it this way: a month ago, if you saw ICE agents, it was interesting but you didn't think twice about it. But with everything that's going on nationally regarding the country’s immigration policy, people are more interested in the topic and are talking about it more. The awareness has increased but the level of enforcement hasn't changed.
By the numbers
11Alive did request statistics on the number of arrests in the last month in metro-Atlanta compared to the same time last year. In an email, Bryan Cox, ICE's Southern Region Communications Director wrote:
"I can tell you that for the entire Atlanta field office (which includes Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina) ICE fugitive operations teams have arrested approximately 200 unlawfully present foreign nationals for the entire week in the course of our ongoing enforcement activities – and most of those 200 individuals are convicted criminals. Again, approximately 200 people for the entire week across a three-state area. The breakdown is roughly even split between each of the three states. I trust this data will help alleviate any concern regarding any of the rumors about large-scale 'sweeps' that are now circulating."
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