BY EDITORIAL STAFF
A total of 41 New York City immigrants and more than 600 others nationwide were arrested last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, setting off a new wave of fear among Queens immigrants.
The borough’s immigrants, who were already on edge in the wake of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, said that last week’s arrests— including one in East Elmhurst— didn’t allay their fears as to whom the president would target next.
However, ICE Secretary John Kelly said that approximately 75 percent of the arrests were of criminal aliens who had been convicted of crimes, such as homicide, sexual assault of a minor, drug trafficking and weapons charges. Of the 41 individuals arrested in the region, 38 of them had criminal convictions.
“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws,” Kelly said.
Make the Road New York, a not-for-profit in Jackson Heights that advocates for immigrants, blasted last week’s arrests.
“Make the Road New York denounces these raids on our communities, which are designed to destroy families and spread panic and insecurity, weakening our city and the nation as a whole,” a statement from the group said. “This attack on immigrant communities is an attack on us all and will be met with resistance from individuals of conscience in this country.”
Make the Road’s Sebastian Barreneche said that his group was aware of an arrest in East Elmhurst, but didn’t know of any others in Queens.
And Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) held a rally on Tuesday along Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside following reports that several individuals were taking part in a scam during which they claimed to be ICE agents and stopped people on the street who appeared to be Latino. The individuals threatened to deport anyone who refused to give them money.
Queens immigrants said that the arrests, which followed shortly after Trump’s travel ban that has been halted for now by a federal appellate court, have left them fearful of the president’s next move.
“Everyone is panicking a bit,” said Sanjeev Jindal, a native of India who works in Southeast Queens. “They don’t know what’s going on. They are wondering if they are safe moving forward. Families don’t want to be torn apart. All of the South Asian communities in Southeast Queens are keeping a close eye on these raids. They feel vulnerable. Anyone at any time can come to their doorstep. People are scared if someone even rings the doorbell.”
Queens resident Magandeep Singh said that he has witnessed a growing unease among numerous immigrant communities in the borough.
“There is a sense of fear,” he said. “I see it in the Pakistani and Hispanic communities. “Not to say that there were not deportations happening at the time of the [Barack] Obama presidency, but Americans and immigrants alike were not living in fear. Things are just not going in the right direction.”
But not all Queens residents were disturbed by the arrests. Astoria’s Andres Martez, 53, who moved to the United States from Cuba in his early 20s, said that those who had been detained were wanted for unlawful acts.
“[ICE] has been doing this for years,” he said. “It makes sense. You can’t think you can illegally go to a country, threaten [its] people by doing crimes and then stay.”
And a Q44 bus operator who goes by Angel C. said that he overhears riders on his bus who have been venting frustration at Trump’s orders.
“I don’t doubt it’s actually happening out here,” he said of the arrests. “[But] it’s only fear if you have something to be afraid of.”
Elected officials representing Queens at the city, state and federal level did not outright condemn the arrests, but said that many questions have been left unanswered.
“Undocumented immigrants live in fear and they are confused and scared,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said. “I am troubled by the lack of transparency and potential due-process violations surrounding ICE’s most recent enforcement actions.”
Schumer called on the agency to release information about the location of the raids and details as to who was arrested.
ICE did not release the names of most of the 41 New Yorkers who were detained, nor would the agency provide information as to where the arrests were made in the five boroughs.
“This has created a tremendous amount of fear in my district,” said Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is a member of the council’s Committee on Immigration. “A number of people who are here legally and those who are undocumented just don’t know what this is going to mean and it really puts their lives on hold, so that they can’t plan things and they don’t know what to tell relatives. Some people are afraid to bring kids to school and it also harms our efforts to fight crime because people are now suspicious of the police, and we shouldn’t have that type of relationship with the immigrant community.”