Caribbean immigrants in New York have reported that Federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Agents of Homeland Security raided restaurants, stores and other job sites on Liberty Avenue, Richmond Hill (dubbed Little Guyana) last week picking up undocumented (out of status) immigrants. The names of restaurants, vegetable and fruit stores, and other work places are being withheld to protect their identity.
Almost everyone from the immigrant community from the Caribbean is shocked that this peaceful community has been targeted for rounding up of illegal immigrants. It is a first for the community.
It is not clear how many out of status immigrants were picked up and in custody and their violations and how many were/are Guyanese or Trinis or South Asians. But news of the raids swept through the tight Guyanese and Trini communities of greater Richmond Hill area and Jamaica and Queens Village where tens of thousands of are settled.
Tens of thousands of Jamaicans and Guyanese are also settled in the neighboring St. Albans area of Queens where conversations can also be heard of the immigration raids in several parts of Queens, including Elmhurst where thousands of South Asians are settled.
These immigrants contribute billions of US dollars in productivity; they engage in low level and low paying jobs (like picking fruits and vegetables, staffing restaurants, stacking shelves of groceries or vegetable stands, and factory work) that “regular or native” Americans refuse.
The illegals live among their ethnic communities to blend in and avoid attention. Because of their physical appearance and generally thought to be non-Americans, minority communities like Indians, Hispanics and Arabs are targeted for ICE raids.
As community leaders and immigration advocates note, Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians are easily distinguishable from other groups and are often mistaken for Middle Eastern Arabs or Hispanics; their communities are targeted for ICE raids to check on immigration status.
ICE agents have been raiding immigrant communities all across the US since Donald Trump was sworn in as President a month ago. The new President issued an executive order for the arrest and deportation of illegal (undocumented) immigrants.
A significant number of Caribbean immigrants and Hispanics voted for Trump, but this has not stopped the new President from going after illegal immigrants. Since his swearing in, thousands of illegals have been arrested. In addition, the President issued a travel ban on immigrants (including those with green cards and visas) from seven Islamic countries.
Hundreds of legitimate immigrants (with valid visas and green cards) were detained at airports or prevented from flying into the US based on their nationality or religious background.
Already the Caribbean immigrant community is on edge in the wake of Trump’s travel ban. The raids, travel ban, detention, and denial of boarding of aircrafts bound for the US have left Guyanese and other immigrant communities worried and confused about Trump’s immigration policy. Many are stressed out and in psychological trauma. Elected officials and community leaders say the raids in New York, and particularly so in Richmond Hill, have created tremendous amount of fear among immigrants regardless of status.
Officials note that immigrants who committed minor offences including evading transportation fears run the risk of being arrested and their record made available to ICE for pick up and deportation. However, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said the city will not turn over illegal immigrants to ICE and that anyone arrested or in public schools will not be asked about their status. Community leaders from Richmond Hill were interviewed on NY TV 1 about recent raids. The raids were condemned by all community leaders, immigration lawyers and politicians.
An ICE spokesman said the agency is after criminal immigrants wanted for deportation out of “public safety threats”. But hundreds have been picked up with no criminal record and not on a deportation list. Their only “crime” is an immigration violation for overstaying their visa or entering the country illegally.
This has not allayed fears as to whom the president is targeting. Everyone who is out of status is picked up during a raid. They have to show cause to a court why they should not be deported in a due process hearing.
In greater Richmond Hill, there are no known wanted Caribbean criminal immigrants. So the raid in Richmond Hill fuels fear even among “immigrant naturalized citizens” and (including those born in the US), green card holders, and those with student visas of being picked up and questioned. Almost everyone is panicking said a community advocate. As officials and lawyers note, these dragnet immigration raids undermine public safety and create psychological instability among all immigrants.
Government representatives from the five Boroughs, City, State and NY Congressional Reps have denounced the raids for targeting minority communities. So far, ICE has not raided White communities where thousands of illegal Europeans are settled. And some Whites in Flushing, Richmond Hill and Elmhurst are calling for more raids against minorities but not against illegals from their communities.
Pro-immigrant advocacy groups are advising immigrants how to respond to raids at their work places and or at homes. ICE agents are not supposed to raid work sites or homes without arrest warrants. Raids on public schools and churches are prohibited by federal courts. Some churches have offered sanctuary to illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, community leaders are urging people to complain to their elected representatives about these raids targeting minority neighborhoods as they could be in violation of court orders.