By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With the new year came the announcement that federal agents are deporting Central Americans who illegally crossed the U.S. border since 2014 and were unable to gain asylum. Raids in other cities sparked panic in Philadelphia. Local advocates are working to quell the fear.
“Because it wasn’t clear who immigration was targeting. At first, there was a lot of terror that spread through the community,” said Yared Portillo, an organizer at Juntos. The group has seen an uptick in phone calls from fearful immigrants concerned about ICE raids.
“People weren’t leaving their houses, people weren’t going to work, they weren’t sending their kids to school,” said Portillo.
Juntos joined a coalition of groups to raise awareness among the immigrant community. They held a protest last week, are holding know your rights workshops and passing out information cards. Last week Mayor Jim Kenney issued an executive order ending police cooperation with ICE so the ongoing outreach appears to be working.
“People are beginning to feel more comfortable,” said Portillo.
ICE officials released the following statement to KYW Newsradio:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.”
“ICE does not conduct raids. All ICE enforcement actions are targeted against specific individuals based on investigative information. To support public safety and promote border security, such targeted actions are focused on individuals based on our enforcement priorities, which includes egregious criminal aliens and recent border entrants.”