NEW YORK     -   Immigration raids conducted by the Trump administration were expected in major US cities on Sunday, a prospect that sparked vigils, protests, anger and fear.

On Saturday night, it was reported that raids had been attempted in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Ice, had not succeeded in rounding up anyone in Harlem or Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

Like many other mayors the Democrat, who is running for the presidential nomination, has said his city will not cooperate with Ice.

On Sunday Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, would not confirm to CNN’s State of the Union whether the raids had begun. Capturing dangerous criminals “remains the priority for Ice”, he said, though not the only possibility.

“Ice is protecting Americans [by] removing these criminals,” he said. “Coming across the border illegally is a crime. [But] when we talk about prioritization for removal, we’re not prioritizing that.”

Cuccinelli was asked what he would say to people like De Blasio who maintain that the raids are a political stunt. “It is about keeping the community safer,” he said. “Just the expectations impose such a deterrent effect. What we call the ‘Trump Effect.’” Cuccinelli would not guarantee that no parents would be separated from their children as a result of the raids.

The raids are expected to target roughly 2,000 migrants in the US illegally but the prospect has rippled terror throughout whole communities.

In Atlanta on Sunday, advocacy groups and legal observers were keeping an eye on the streets. One lawyer told the Guardian Ice agents were in Clayton county, just south of the city, at 5am. They had not heard more.

Members of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights met at its offices north of Atlanta, near the city’s migrant corridor, hoping to act as “Ice watchers” and stream operations live on social media.

Mario Guevara, an immigration reporter for Mundo Hispanico with more than 300,000 followers on Facebook, spent the early morning roaming the same corridor. He found only one undocumented woman, selling tamales. In her few months in Atlanta, he said she told him, she had never seen Ice agents in the area. She intended to work as usual, regardless of “rumors” of a raid. A legal observer with Project South told the Guardian: “No news is good news.”

According to legal and law enforcement sources, raids in Atlanta were likely to be spread through the week. One immigration attorney, Pamela Peynado Stewart, said one contact had been made on Friday.

“We recently learned that four Ice officers knocked at a single mother’s home on Friday at 8am for the sole purpose of arresting the mother and her two young children,” she said. “She had no crimes but did have an order of deportation in absentia from a few years back. “The family states that the Ice officers left the home without making a single arrest and simply asked the mother to follow some instructions and appear at a supervision, which she fully intends on doing.”

Before Sunday, vigils were held from Los Angeles to as far afield as Berlin, as a broad coalition of progressive groups condemn the raids.

“This administration’s deliberate terrorizing of immigrant families and communities grows worse every day,” Mary Bauer, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, told the Guardian.

“The continued mistreatment of children held in detention facilities, the attacks on our asylum system, and the assaults on immigrant communities through threatened raids show that this administration’s priority is terrorizing communities and not solving our nation’s immigration problems.”

Undocumented migrants described to the Guardian plans to buy groceries, in anticipation of locking themselves indoors. Businesses which rely on migrant labor reported employees staying home from work.

The planned actions come on the heels of congressional testimony about “horrifying” conditions inside migrant detention facilities at the southern border. Twenty-four immigrants have died in Ice custody during the Trump administration.

On Friday, reporters with Vice-President Mike Pence visited a border station in McAllen, Texas, and described overcrowded conditions in which men were held in cages in “sweltering” heat where the “stench was horrendous”. Pence described the conditions as “tough stuff”.

Immigration officials have publicly floated the idea of using hotels to hold those seized following the raids. That prompted one chain, Marriott, to say it would not allow its buildings to be used. Ice officials responded that they would be forced to separate families if they lack capacity.