The threat of raids by federal immigration agents have left Sunset Park a ghost town, with locals heading indoors and store owners closing up shop as fear grips the neighborhood, according to a local civil rights advocate.
“The park is completely empty,” said Dennis Flores, the co-founder of a civil rights organization in Sunset Park called El Grito. “Several parts of the neighborhood would be packed with street vendors, but it’s a ghost town,” he said.
Immigration agents attempted two raids on undocumented residents in Sunset Park on Saturday, neither of which led to to an arrest, the Mayor’s office confirmed.
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers began the raids at about 6:30 a.m., knocking on the door of a residence on 60th Street between Second and Third avenues. The agents then headed to another home on 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues at about 7:30 a.m., according to Flores.
None of the residents opened their doors to ICE officials, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. One man refused to allow the federal agents access to his 56th Street home without a warrant, but the G-men vowed to return, according to a Pix 11 report.
“It’s scary because it’s my home and I know I don’t have to open the door, but they told me I did,” the man told PIX 11.
The homeland security agents also tried and failed to raid a home in East Harlem on Saturday, the Mayor’s office reported. The attempted arrests came a day before ICE was scheduled to sweep the country, conducting repeated raids across 10 US sanctuary cities from last Sunday through the end of this week.
In preparation for the ICE raids, the Mayor’s office and several community organizations have been trying to inform residents of their rights and to spread the word about the ICE.
“We are working both on the ground and with numerous community partners to monitor, share, and respond to ICE activities throughout the five boroughs as they are reported through multiple rapid response hotlines,” said Bitta Mostofi, the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Immigration experts told residents to refuse entry to immigration agents, and that residents should reach out to an immigration attorney should residents face a removal warrant against them.
But not all city employees plan to cooperate with the mayor’s anti-ICE approach. In a letter to his constituents on July 12, Edward Mullins, the president of the police union Sergeants Benevolent Association, urged cops to “NOT leave any ICE Agent abandoned if in need of assistance and to stand shoulder to shoulder with each agent so that they too can return home safely to their families.”