Sunday, May 19, 2024

Trump’s threats of massive deportations keep immigrants on edge

On the summer weekends, many residents in the outskirts of Washington attend Mass, dine out with their families or simply step into the streets outside their red-brick apartments, where some of their neighbors sell shaved ice with chili powder and sliced mangoes with lime and salt from unpretentious food carts.

But in recent weeks, some of them — especially those in the U.S. without a legal status — have been living under constant trepidation and fear. Like other immigrants in communities across the country, they’ve been on edge since President Trump vowed to order mass deportations of undocumented families last month.

“Sometimes, the streets are empty now,” said Yennifer, a native of Guatemala and now a resident of Langley Park, which is just to the northeast of Washington. When the 22-year-old mother, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used, first learned through Facebook and WhatsApp of Mr. Trump’s announcement, she said she worried for her two children.

Seven months ago, she crossed into the U.S. from Mexico illegally while pregnant to reunite with her husband Kevin, 24, who had crossed the southern border a month earlier with their 5-year-old son. “I’m scared to go outside. I’m scared to go to all places,” she said in Spanish, “My biggest fear is that if they take me, what’s going to happen to my husband? And if they take my kids away from me, what’s going to happen to them?.”

Nick Katz and his Langley Park-based immigrant advocacy group CASA have been making sure local immigrants are aware of their rights and are operating a hotline for people to report ICE activity. He stressed, however, that it’s important for them not to amplify the panic he believes the administration is looking to instill in immigrant communities.

“That’s what they want,” said Katz, an attorney who is the senior manager of CASA’s legal services. “They want people to be afraid to go to the grocery story. They want people to self deport. They want immigrants to essentially be afraid to engage in the basic activities of life in this country.”