NY Daily News: NYC Immigrant Communities Shaken After Series of Federal Raids Led to Around 40 Arrests

The New York Daily News spoke with Sarah Gillman – Supervising Attorney from The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit – on recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and how current enforcement practices employed by ICE have many families living in disarray, panic and fear.

NY Daily News
NYC immigrant communities shaken after series of federal raids led to around 40 arrests
by Edgar Sandoval, Reuven Blau & Stephen Rex Brown
February 12, 2017

Fear spread through New York’s immigrant communities Sunday following a series of federal raids that led to the arrest of around 40 people.

On Staten Island, where five people were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since Feb. 3, a Mexican restaurant, La Catracha, was unusually empty.

"Usually the place is filled with families. But today is empty. No one is leaving their homes. They are afraid," said Diana Matute, 40, who owns the restaurant in Port Richmond.

“If this keeps up I may have to close. I have to pay rent and pay my employees. These raids can't keep on happening. It's going to ruin everyone.”

ICE said that nearly 95% of the foreign nationals arrested in the past week were criminal aliens, fugitives or illegal re-entrants.

The agency called the raids “routine, daily, targeted operations.”

But Sarah Gillman, the supervising attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit, said the wave of enforcement had terrorized neighborhoods.

“(The raids) are generally done in early morning hours or late at night and communities are really taken by surprise and thrown into a state of disarray, panic and fear,” she said. “It's just really unfortunate.”

Immigrants were hesitant to take their kids to school or go to hospitals for care, she said.

ICE planned to release more information about the raids Monday.

“ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending deportable foreign nationals. All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day,” a spokesman said.

But in the meantime, rumors were running wild.

On Saturday a false rumor spread on Facebook and Twitter that 10 ICE officers were at Roosevelt Ave. and Junction Blvd. in Queens, detaining undocumented immigrants.

“Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create mass panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support,” the ICE spokesman said.

The NYPD had nothing to do with the raids, a spokesman said.

The agency’s efforts were not new. President Barack Obama was referred to derisively by immigration advocates as “the deporter in chief.” He deported 2.5 million people as President — more than any other administration in history.

Last month President Trump signed an executive order expanding the definition of criminals who should be targeted for deportation by immigration officials.

“What's different about this time is the enforcement priorities are very different,” Gillman said. “We don't know who they're focusing on.”

At a deli on Port Richmond Ave a 38-year-old Guatemalan undocumented immigrant worried while drinking a cup of coffee.

"Trump said he was going to deport those who commit crimes. But it looks like he's going after family people like me," he said. "I have kids here. All I can do is pray and place my fate in God. It's all up to him now. We haven't made plans in case I get picked up. I don't want to think about it.”

Favio Ramirez-Caminatti, the executive director of the El Centro Del Inmigrante on Staten Island, said there had been a surge in people seeking free legal assistance. Prior to Trump taking office, the center worked with 80 to 85 people a day. Now, as many as 150 people are seeking help at the center.

“They are really afraid about what can happen,” Ramirez-Caminatti, 32, said.