MIAMI Florida (CNN) – Weeks ago, Donald Trump warned that ICE agents were preparing raids across the country. For millions of undocumented immigrants living across the United States, the storm is still brewing.
In Miami a 41-year-old housekeeper and babysitter headed to the grocery store with her daughter. They knew they’d be staying inside and needed to stock up on supplies. “I felt that day like it was a hurricane coming,” the undocumented immigrant from Nicaragua told CNN.
With a new threat of immigration raids on Sunday, immigrant rights advocates and undocumented immigrants told CNN that fear in their communities is growing. They’re calling hotlines, afraid to go outside and unsure of where to turn. Some are staying home from work. Others are posting signs by doors inside their homes telling their relatives or roomates what to do if ICE agents show up.
Just like in Miami the mix of panic and preparation weeks ago felt like a hurricane, in multiple places around the areas where immigrants settle, their neighborhoods seemed eerily empty. The baby sitter from Miami told CNN on an interview:
“I said, ‘OK, you know what, we’re going to keep the windows shut, the blinds down, wihout making any noise. I want everybody to stay calm and try to turn off the lights in the living room, so if they come, they don’t know that we are in the house,'” she said. “I know my rights. I know that I don’t have to open the door. I know a lot of things, but even knowing al that, that it’s really scary.”
The woman shared her story but asked to be identified only by a pseudonym, out of fear she could face repercussions for speaking out. She said she came to the United States more than two decades ago on a visa, which she overstayed as she sought asylum. She lost her case but stayed in the United States, where she says she’s built a life and grown her family. She’s terrified of being separated from them.
“This is a horrible feeling. These past two days, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night. My husband says, ‘What happened to you last night? You started screaming in your dream.”
Farm workers staying home
Élfido sat in the scorching sun Thursday tending to agave plants in Homestead, Florida. For weeks, he’s been picking up extra work to fill in for colleagues who he says are too scared to leave home after hearing about the possibility of raids on TV. The migrant worker from Guatemala says he only leaves home to walk to work, knowing that along the way he risks the possibility of arrest by authorities. “Yes, I’m taking the risk,” he said, “but just to fight for my family.”
As the threat of immigration raids looms in South Florida, fields once filled with workers look empty. Weeds are popping up where crops once grew. And the number of “help wanted” signs posted offering work are on the rise. A growing number of workers are scared to leave their homes, leaving farm owners in search of laborers to harvest their crops.
Farm owner Gustavo Serna told CNN en Español that crops are being lost as a result. “Because of the lack of workers, many times people are losing up to 50% of their harvest,” he said. Across the country, in Worthington, Minnesota, an undocumented agriculture worker interviewed said the community there is terrified, too. He said he’s planning to hunker down until he is certain ICE agents aren’t in the streets. “I don’t want to leave my family devastated” he said, “so we are just going to stay inside.”
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