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Valley families brace for immigration raids

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 28, 2015

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced they'll start immigration raids in early January.

Those on the priority list may include the surge of Central American immigrants in the summer of 2014.

With little warning, those families are left scrambling for guidance and answers.

Pastor Kenneth Heintzelman heads the Shadow Rock Church in north Phoenix. He says, "When we are offering sanctuary, the candle is in the window."

That candle is burning now and he says it's a glimmer of hope for some of those who may be on the priority deportation list.

"It allows people to resume their life, to go back to work, to stay with their families," he adds.

Pastor Ken says it's meant to be a tool to help people with their immigration cases - a way to buy time.

Ice officials say they deported more than 235,000 people at the end of fiscal year 2015. So far they haven't said how the raids will be conducted or exactly when they're expected to start.

Lydia Guzman with Chicanos Por La Causa says the lack of information is causing a lot of worry.

"The frenzy is out there and we want to calm the public. We need more answers from Immigration, but one thing for sure is, we don't want to create chaos in the community where people are just going to be leaving their homes," Guzman adds.

Karina Ontiveros says she's worried her boyfriend could be targeted in the upcoming raids because he missed a court date he didn't know he had.

"He only came to work-to give his family...The best."

They even have a 10-month-old son which makes the prospect of him leaving even harder.

"He's the only person there who supports me right now so my child - he needs his parents right and I don't want this to happen to me or nobody," she says as she chokes back tears.

Ice officers are expected to deport hundreds of families.

In a statement released to ABC15 they say in part,

"If individuals come here illegally, do not qualify for asylum or other relief, and have final orders of removal, they will be sent back consistent with our laws and our values."

Immigration activist groups are working to pair families with lawyers who may give them advice on what to do next.