Hiding from ICE raids: ‘People are terrified to go out on the streets’
The first day of President Trump’s long-threatened ICE raids didn’t result in the large numbers of arrests some had expected.
In fact, for all the hype, there was only a scattering of enforcement actions across the nation Sunday.
But the threats did change life for many in immigrant communities.
Residents reported far fewer people on the streets, with some blaming fears of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids as the reason. Some immigrants in the country illegally decided to not go out in public.
The question is whether this was a one-day shift or whether it will continue.
On 4th Street in Santa Ana, some street vendors reported dismal sales. Sylvia, a street vendor who gave only her first name because she’s in the country illegally, said her sales were down by at least half.
By noon, she usually has at least 30 customers. On Sunday, she’d had only 15 and it was already 2 p.m.
“It’s slow because many people are staying home,” she said. “They just aren’t coming because of what they’re saying in the news ... because of the raids.”
Sylvia, who has lived in the United States for 15 years, did her best to keep busy as she patted down glass soda bottles into a large tub of ice. She said most vendors were afraid to show up for work but did anyway.
“I don’t have papers, but I leave my fate in the hands of God,” she said. “If God says I have to return to Mexico, I’ll return.”
Edgar Barrera noticed that Koreatown was quieter than usual Sunday. Fewer people attended the morning church service. He didn’t spot many families walking the streets and the nearby Guatemalan and Salvadoran bakeries were virtually empty, he said.
“It has been totally silent around here since yesterday,” he said. “People are terrified to go out on the streets.”
Barrera, 59, who manages a business that sends packages to Guatemala at a cheap price, said he noticed fewer people coming in for the store’s services Sunday.
Barrera is in the country illegally but says he isn’t going to let fear change his way of life. He works seven days a week and has no plans to slow down.
“I can’t give myself the luxury of not going to work,” he said. “I have to pay rent. I have to pay for food.… My mother is sick and needs medicine, and I’m the only person who can pay her medical bills.”
He says that word of the ICE raids spread quickly through the Guatemalan community, primarily through Facebook.
Many community members stayed home or found different ways to stay out of sight, he said. Barrera avoided driving on main avenues and took side streets to work.
But he’s not changing his routine too much. “I’m tired of running away all the time,” he said. “I’m hoping that if I stay calm, nothing will happen.”
Late Sunday, Venus Rodriguez was reaching out to migrant families hiding at home and preparing to come out Monday.
“They’re going to attempt to go to work because they need the money. It’s a scary situation for a lot of them,” said Rodriguez, 43, a community organizer on Houston’s north side.
While some officials have said that only recent migrants with deportation orders will be targeted during the ICE raids, she said, “a lot of them are not trusting that. They think they might just start picking people up.”
On Sunday morning, Sunset Park Latino Democrats participated in an “ICE watch,” as about 50 volunteers walked in pairs across the Brooklyn neighborhood. They handed out “know your rights” pamphlets that included information about the right to remain silent and the right to not open the doors of their homes.
“We want to keep the neighborhood informed of everything, so we have people who are U.S. citizens, like myself, roaming the streets and spreading information that can help our community,” said organizer Claudia Galicia.
Participants spotted no ICE activity Sunday, she said. This week, the group will be at nearby subway stations every morning to make sure people feel safe commuting to and from work, and to continue spreading “know your rights” information, Galicia said.
But on Sunday, fear still permeated the streets of Sunset Park. Galicia said she can’t remember ever seeing the neighborhood so empty, particularly on a weekend.
Though she wants community members to continue living their lives as they would normally, Galicia knows that’s close to impossible right now, she said.
“A street vendor just called me to ask if there will be raids tomorrow,” Galicia said. “Everyone is just waiting to see if there is another raid … People are traumatized.”
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