ICE raids bring fear and scams to western Queens immigrant communities

ICE raids bring fear and scams to western Queens immigrant communities
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer speaks out against the scamming of an immigrant by men posing as ICE agents in Woodside.
Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

Deportation raids across the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have caused high anxiety up and down Roosevelt Avenue despite only one arrest in Elmhurst. Unfounded rumors of checkpoints and sweeps have fueled the fears in Queens’ immigrant communities and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an urgent fraud alert about ICE scams Wednesday after an incident in Woodside Monday afternoon.

“It is unconscionable for scam artists to prey on heightened fear in our immigrant communities by pretending to be ICE officers and demanding that families pay up in order to avoid deportation,” Schneiderman said. “I urge communities to protect themselves by learning about these potential scams — and contacting my office if they suspect fraud.”

The alert was issued after City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) held a rally with city officials and immigrant organizations Tuesday at 65th Street and Roosevelt Avenue where a Hispanic man was approached by four individuals wearing ICE jackets, which Van Bramer said are easily available online. They demanded all of the man’s cash “or they’d take him in” and the man gave them $250.

“This is a sick act by four individuals making a quick buck off immigrant fears,” Van Bramer said. “We can’t let incidents like this go unchallenged.”

The man’s wife contacted Van Bramer’s office because they were afraid to talk to the NYPD. Make the Road New York lead organizer Antonio Alarcon warned that similar incidents are happening all over Queens, but undocumented immigrants fear speaking with the authorities — a fear Van Bramer said was unfounded.

“New York City is a sanctuary city, so if you contact police, they won’t ask about immigration status or report you to authorities,” Van Bramer said. “We stand united to keep this community safe. Even the undocumented.”

Van Bramer said he has seen false reports on social media of checkpoints on Junction Boulevard that had spread fear to Jackson Heights and Corona.

“These are frightening times, and we need accurate information from ICE on exactly who was arrested for what,” Van Bramer said.

The agency did report that 41 foreign nationals were arrested last week in the five boroughs, and that 38 had prior criminal convictions.

“Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous, and irresponsible,” the agency said in a statement. “These reports create 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.”

During a Monday press conference, President Donald Trump said he would continue to ramp up deportations and arrests of immigration fugitives and at-large criminal aliens.

“I said we will get the criminals out — the drug lords, the gang members — we’re getting them out,” Trump said.

Last week ICE arrested 680 people in 11 states during “targeted enforcement operations.” State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D–Jackson Heights) blasted the ICE actions.

“I am outraged and emotionally sickened by the ICE raids that have led to the detainment of immigrants in New York and other U.S. cities. These are exactly the kind of bullish tactics that we have feared the Trump administration would use,” Moya said. “The men arrested had families and now their children will be left without a father, just so Trump can claim that he has fulfilled his campaign promise. That these raids were conducted in several sanctuary cities proves they were not simply routine exercises, but rather directives from the Oval Office to crack down on opposition.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) said the Independent Democratic Conference has set up an emergency hotline at 1-800-213-6385 to assist anyone that needs help on immigration matters.

“In the era of Trump, our immigrant communities, unfortunately, live now in constant fear. We are talking about New Yorkers who want to be part of the American Dream, just like my parents did when they arrived here,” Peralta said. “It is my hope that the president puts an end to these unjust federal raids. We cannot stand idly by while President Trump runs roughshod over our immigrant families and the values that bind us together as New Yorkers.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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