ICE raids in East Elmhurst and across the city cause alarm and confusion

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ICE

Hundreds of arrests have been made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents across the country in the past week, including 41 in the Greater New York area, that have left many worried and confused.

There was some confusion on Saturday when people reported on Twitter that ICE agents were conducting raids near Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights.


But immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York (MRNY) said there was no proof that ICE agents conducted raids at the location. According to Sebastian Barreneche, spokesperson for the group, the only raid that took place in Queens this past week happened in East Elmhurst. The group did not share who was targeted or why.

According to ICE, more than 680 individuals were arrested in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio. About 75 percent of those arrested were convicted of crimes including homicide, aggravated sexual abuse and drug trafficking.

In New York, 38 of the 41 individuals arrested had criminal convictions. It is not clear why the remaining three individuals were included in the raid. According to the agency, arrests included a citizen of El Salvador with a criminal conviction and a self-admitted member of the gang MS-13, a Jamaican citizen convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11 and a Mexican citizen with the same charge.

MRNY released a statement, denouncing the raids, which ICE has called “routine.”

“First, it is critical that people do not panic,” the statement read. “Many false rumors have been spreading in a climate of fear. We urge our neighbors to avoid spreading information about ICE activity about which they do not have direct knowledge. Those that do have direct knowledge of raids should report it by calling the Immigrant Defense Project hotline at 212-725-6422. ”

They also invited concerned New York residents to visit their offices to learn their rights. If an ICE agent comes to your door, the group said, you should only allow them in if he or she has a warrant signed by a judge.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is holding a rally on Feb. 14 to denounce a reported scam that has been taking place in Woodside. According to the councilman, people have been dressing up in uniform claiming to be ICE agents and approaching those who appear to be Latino. The men tell the people they approach that they face deportation unless they pay the agents.

“The NYPD is aware of the scam and is investigating,” a spokesperson for Councilman Van Bramer said. “It’s unclear who the people are who are perpetrating the scam, but it seems like they are just run-of-the-mill con artists who are shaking down people who are already scared.”

According to an NYPD spokesperson, no one has officially reported being victimized by someone claiming to be an ICE agent.

“There are no formal complaints on file,” the spokesperson said. “We encourage anyone that is a victim of a crime to report it.”

The federal agency also denounced false reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps calling them “false, dangerous and irresponsible.”

“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,” the agency said in a statement.

ICE also said that officers encounter “additional suspects” who may be staying in the country illegally when they make targeted enforcement operations and that those people would be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis” and may be subject to arrest.

In August, under the Obama administration, 58 people were arrested in New York during an ICE operation. Critics, however, are worried that under the Trump administration, the criteria under which people are targeted will expand.

“Dragnet immigration raids would undermine New York City’s public safety, destabilize communities and devastate families,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “During these uncertain times, we remind all New Yorkers that our city’s policies will not change and that contacting the city — including the Police Department — will not compromise the safety or security of immigrants.”