Photo: Korean Resource Center L.A.

July 14, 2019; Los Angeles Times

Tensions were high around the country this weekend as many braced themselves for raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) promised through a series of tweets from the president. Protests aimed at shutting the camps took place in many cities Friday night.

ICE actions were threatened to take place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Houston on Sunday. As many as 2,000 people were expected to be arrested, but by late afternoon, it was not clear that any arrests had been made.

The Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition, which had mobilized to let people know what their rights were and what steps they should take if arrested, had seen no arrests. but Melissa Tavares, public relations consultant for the group, says families are hiding in their homes, hunkering down. “The overall environment is very much like a hurricane,” she says. “When is it going to come, is it going to hit us, is it going to move north?”

Similarly, things were relatively quiet in Houston. “We’re driving around and it’s really empty,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of Fiel Houston. They, too, distributed information to threatened community members; almost a dozen churches declared themselves open to house people, but most hid at home. Community organizer Venus Rodriguez said many were planning on going to work in the morning. “They’re going to attempt to go to work, because they need the money,” she said, adding that even those without deportation orders felt targeted.

Jojo Annobil, executive director of Immigrant Justice Corps, which was mobilizing their cadre of 54 lawyers, said that even though no arrests had been made in New York, “people are still scared.”

Speaking of the fear of ICE raids, Annobil predicts, “It’s going to carry over into the week, with children scared their parents won’t come home” from work. “It scares neighborhoods. People are on edge, because nobody knows who they are targeting.”

The MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, where many people of Mexican and Central American descent call home, was uncharacteristically quiet and businesses were mostly empty.

Total Wireless store, salesman Biviano Oxlaj, who earns commissions on sales, shook his head in dismay and said, “I’ve been staring at the front door all day, just hoping a customer shows up.

“Business is down by 75 percent, and it’s been that way since Saturday,” he said. “But since this is all because of an order from the White House, there’s not much anyone can do but wait for it to pass like a storm cloud.”

A block away, Juan Castenada, a clerk at Bargain Dica, where many items cost a dollar, looked out on empty aisles. “People are afraid to come outside,” he said. “So, it’s going to be a long, slow day.”

A few doors down at Shalom Furniture, salesman Herman Ventura would not argue with any of that: “The few people out on the street today are nervous and looking over their shoulder. The rest just stayed home.”

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti released a video pledging the city’s support for undocumented residents. He made it clear that L.A. law enforcement is not coordinating or cooperating with ICE: “We’ve all heard reports the Trump administration is threatening to round up and deport thousands of immigrant families in cities across America this weekend,” he said. “I want every Angeleno to know their rights and how to exercise them.”

Remember, you have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to open your door to an ICE agent that doesn’t have a warrant signed by a judge. You have the right to speak to a lawyer before signing any documents or speaking to law enforcement. And, if you need help finding an attorney, you can call 311 and learn more about our Justice Fund and other resources that offer legal support.

In Los Angeles, we draw strength from the diverse dynamic communities that call our city home and we support immigrant families because they’re our friends, neighbors, colleagues, confidants, our fellow taxpayers, local business owners, and co-workers. For us, this isn’t partisan politics.

It’s about being a good neighbor…and we will never let fear and intimidation win the day. We are in this together.

Meanwhile, President Trump released a series of racist tweets attacking four progressive congresswomen of color: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, telling them to “go back to where they came from” and making it clear that he considers no Black or Brown people legitimate Americans. (Never mind that all but Omar, who immigrated to the US as a Syrian refugee, were born in the United States.) Ayanna Pressley Tweeted back “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify every day.”—Ruth McCambridge