Deportation fears spike in SoCal after Donald Trump's presidential victory

WESTLAKE DISTRICT, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Many of those who may be subject to deportation are growing anxious about their future amid concern over President-elect Donald Trump's immigration policy when he takes over the Oval Office.

Elena Mercado has been living in Los Angeles without papers for two decades. She says she has her lawyer's phone number programmed in her phone for emergencies, if she is ever arrested.

The Trump campaign pledge of mass deportation had already raised anxiety. Now, advocates say his followers are emboldened and confronting Latinos.

"Individuals are being stopped in street corners or at bus stations and being told to go back to your country and actually being physically assaulted," said Angelica Salas with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

MORE: Donald Trump suggests "softening" of immigration policies possible

Steve Zimmer, a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he's heard heartbreaking statements from children at schools.

"'I'm worried because my mom doesn't have documents,'" Zimmer recalled a child saying. "One young man said his father woke him up at 3 o'clock in the morning so that they could pack all of their belongings."

Salas and Zimmer were among a group of advocates, elected leaders and members of law enforcement who gathered at a hastily organized news conference on Thursday in an effort to urge the public not to panic.

Senator-elect Kamala Harris says she will take this message to Washington: A wall will not work, reforms will.

"We are going to have to be unified, and we are going to have to understand everyone in our country should feel a sense of investment in the outcome of this conversation. This is not just about immigrants - it is about all of us," Harris said.

The Los Angeles Police Department stresses that no one should fear coming forward to report a crime.

MORE: Donald Trump proposes "extreme vetting" for immigrants

"This city and this police department is not going to cooperate with the immigration. It's not an immigration force, it's a police force," said Los Angeles city Councilman Gil Cedillo.

Legal advocates want to send out the message that the Constitution protects immigrants, too - no matter how they entered the country. That means children have a right to go to school, all have freedom of speech and many other protections.

"So these core fundamental constitutional protections exist regardless of immigration status, and everyone is entitled to them," said Victor Viramontes with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

The push now is to ensure that immigrants are not victimized.

"You are not alone, you matter and we've got your back," Harris said.

Harris added that there is strength in numbers. California has more immigrants than any other state in the nation. She said she will make sure their voices are heard on Capitol Hill.
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