Fear and loathing coat the streets of New York City after President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, as immigrants dodge U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials demanding status and detaining people.

Although ICE slammed reports of raids and checkpoints as “false, dangerous and irresponsible,” since last week panicked immigrants have been staying home or walking cautiously as rumors spread that ICE officials were stopping people on the streets of Brooklyn (Bushwick, Church/Bedford avenues), in the Bronx and in Queens along the No. 7 subway line—Jackson Heights and Corona.

Several news reports showed immigrants in Woodside, Queens, and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer exposing a scam of “fake” ICE officials vamping on Latinos and demanding they pay hundreds of dollars to avoid immediate deportation.

“The recent immigration round up by the government have created a state of panic in the African immigrant community,” said community leader Charles Cooper. The Liberian-born recent Harlem City Council candidate told the Amsterdam News. “Several community members have reached out to me in fear that they may be next. When the mayor pushed his IDNYC into our community, we were asked to encourage our community to sign-up, and we were assured that the data would be safe. Today, my community is left in limbo, wondering whether the data collected is being used to track down law-abiding members in our community.”

According to a social media campaign Thursday, Feb. 16, has been designated by some activists as “One day without immigrants,” under the premise of showing, “Mr. President, without us and our contribution, this country would be paralyzed.” The organizers urge immigrants not to go to work, shop, go to school or even by gas. “Let’s be prepared,” they advise. “We could lose one day at work, but gain a whole lot more. We want to be heard.”

In response to the post on Instagram, Sharon Gordon, the popular host of “Reggae Calling” on CPRLive.org. posted the African proverb, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

But righteous axioms are not soothing the real-life anxiety of millions of New Yorkers, many of whom are real fear of being asked their immigration status as they go about their daily lives. Others fear the real possibility of leaving the house in the early morning to go to a job and not being able return eight or nine hours later.

“These are scary times in America,” said Gordon. “The immigrant community is under siege, and many are scared to venture outside of their homes for fear of being caught up in a ‘check point’ or a raid. Fake news has become the order of the day and so many are not sophisticated enough to ascertain what is fake and what is real.”

She continued, “We now have a president and an administration intent on sowing seeds of racial discontent throughout the nation. That has given power to so many racists and bigots to come out of the shadows and be vocal and active with their hatred against anyone who is not white. He has surrounded himself with these bigots like Stephen Miller and Steven Bannon who are known racists and these are people writing policies. These are very scary times in America.”

According to the City Planning Commission’s 2013 study, almost 40 percent of the city’s 8.2 million population was born outside of the country.

Tweeting Sunday, Trump said, “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!

Mayor de Blasio tweeted, “We will continue to stand with the nearly 40 percent of New Yorkers who are foreign born—documented or undocumented.”

ICE announced, “A total of 41 foreign nationals were arrested this week in the five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding areas during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens. The vast majority—38 of those arrested—had criminal convictions.”

DHS Secretary John Kelly said in a statement, “Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country. 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, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed, and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges. ICE officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas of responsibility arrested more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. Of those arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes, including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges. ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years. The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.”

“The Mayor’s office has received credible reports of immigration enforcement activity in several New York City neighborhoods,” said Rosemary Boeglin, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s deputy press secretary. “The Mayor is closely monitoring the situation and the administration is working with NYPD and community organizations to verify activity as we receive reports. We will continue to stand with the nearly 40 percent of New Yorkers who are foreign born—documented or undocumented—and we will use all of the tools at our disposal to protect them from any federal overreach. New Yorkers should rest assured that city officials, including the NYPD, will never ask about your immigration status and the NYPD will never become immigration enforcement agents.”

At the Dean Street, Brooklyn office of the Nigerian American Muslim Integrated Community State Senator Jesse Hamilton and a coalition of immigrant support groups and allies held a news conference to announced that his office will be a Sanctuary Senate District. Hamilton’s office said that in light of Trump’s executive order “putting in jeopardy the rights of our immigrant population in New York and their families who have lawfully obtained permission to come to this country to live, work or visit,” Hamilton “has declared his office to be a Sanctuary Senate District for the term of President Trump’s executive order.”

The statement added that the office “will provide services related to and protecting the rights of immigrants as they face legal challenges to their immigration status as well as delays in citizenship applications and potential deportation orders based on the misapplication of President Trumps executive order and the U.S. Constitution.”

The statement concluded, “Residents who have questions or issues regarding their immigration status can call …1-800-213-6385 for assistance. In addition, Senator Hamilton’s Office will have on-site specialists on certain days of the month to provide direct support to residents. Over 20 community based organizations will serve as partners for the Sanctuary Senate District.”

To the Amsterdam News Hamilton said, “This Sanctuary Senate District Initiative, the Immigrant Defense Coalition and our continued outreach will assist our immigrant communities through these anxious times. We have a Trump administration imposing draconian, unjust restrictions and promising more. As leaders in a city that has welcomed immigrant communities for hundreds of years, we need to fight back and reassure our immigrant friends and neighbors that we stand together in protecting them. Through delivering services in the neighborhood and through advancing immigrant protections in Albany, we reaffirm New York’s longstanding commitment to our immigrant communities.”

“The planned immigration enforcement action conducted by ICE in major cities across the nation is not only callous, but it undermines our credibility as a caring nation,” State Senator Kevin Parker told the Amsterdam News. “Forcibly tearing families apart and separating mothers from their children is not ‘immigration reform.’ Our country deserves an immigration policy that reflects our values, traditions and history as a fair, warm and welcoming nation. And while families of the more than 700 people detained are in sorrow, I remain hopeful and vigilant that we can enact meaningful reform to stop the inhumane polices of the federal government. Increased enforcement is neither the answer nor a meaningful step in the right direction toward fixing the problem.” 

Like the rally in Battery Park Sunday, and in Foley Square, Manhattan Tuesday, there have been several protests over the ICE raids.

Councilmember Jumanne Williams, Brooklyn Democrat of Grenadian heritage, told the Amsterdam News, “Concerns about immigration checkpoints and raids, whether rumors or not, is evidence of the mass hysteria that has taken hold of communities across the country because of Trump.”

Williams, whose 45th District includes East Flatbush, Flatbush and Flatlands in Brooklyn, where some of the stops have been reported, added, “This administration from day one has done everything in his power to marginalize people, create a culture of fear and divide Americans. It’s unfortunate the people are taking advantage of this fear so they can profit off unsuspecting people.”

Advocacy groups such as Make the Road New York and the Immigrant Defense Project are offering support for concerned NYC residents. Familiarizing yourself with the law is a great defense said the New York Immigration Coalition. Spokeswoman Thanu Yakupitiyage said immigrants who are stopped by ICE officials “have a right to remain silent.”  She added, “They have a right to ask for a lawyer. They should not sign anything. If it’s in their home, they don’t have to open the door.”

Immigration law attorneys Figeroux & Associates (see Page 12) can be reached at 855-768-8845

The Immigrant Defense Project  hotline is 212-725-6422. The state’s Office for New Americans hotline is 1-800-566-7636. The Legal Aid Society’s immigration law unit hotline is 844-955-3425.

Mayor de Blasio’s office says New Yorkers should call 311 for questions regarding supportive services, such as legal assistance through ActionNYC and visit nyc.gov/immigrants.