Fernando Martínez / El Diario

Starting early in the morning, volunteer “patrol officers” meet up in the neighborhood to support local immigrant communities. (Fernando Martínez/El Diario)

Read the original story in Spanish at El Diario
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

It was 6 a.m. on recent Tuesday, and a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers searched for an immigrant man in a house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to arrest him. Since they could not find him, six agents burst into the man’s place of work, a bodega on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, shortly after 8 a.m.

The incident was documented on video and photographs by immigrant rights coalitions in south Brooklyn, where thousands of Hispanic families live. Activists allege that “la migra” received backup from the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBT) and that this confirms that the two agencies had been collaborating before President Donald Trump announced that he would send elite units to “sanctuary cities.”

“In their latest interactions, they have been around since the break of dawn, so we will be on the streets from the early hours as well,” said Jorge Muñiz, one of the several neighborhood “patrol officers” forming the Sunset Park Emergency ICE Watch.

The organization offers legal support for immigrants in one of the New York City communities where ICE’s presence has been most noticeable in the last few months. The group’s strategy, centered in the areas of Kensington, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, consists of distributing literature, offering tools to prevent people from panicking and clarifying how they should behave if federal agents come to their home or work place.

“The federal agencies are acting together, and they are trying to carry out their operations under cover of darkness to take people by surprise,” said Rodrigo Camarena, another volunteer in the group.

“At this time, it is vital for communities to know their rights so they cannot be terrorized. Immigration agents are setting new traps. We will repeat again and again that, without an arrest warrant, any procedure is invalid. They are acting on administrative orders, which is illegal,” said the activist.

Camarena also said that reports of the presence of immigration officers in neighborhoods with large Latino populations, such as Sunset Park, have increased in recent weeks. 

For “Luis González” (not his real name), a 72-year-old Mexican man from Puebla who has lived in Sunset Park for more than 25 years, the presence of “la migra and the feds” in the area is not new. 

“Let me tell you something: I am undocumented. I am not a criminal. I have never gotten into trouble. Here, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, if it isn’t the police, it’s ‘la migra,'” he said. “They are always looking for someone around here, brother, whether during Bush, or Obama or Trump… Whoever. The only thing is that, now, there is more outrage about the issue.”

ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence previously announced that, due to the sanctuary policies implemented in states like New York and California to protect immigrants, his agents would have to get out in the streets more often to catch undocumented people. 

“Sanctuary jurisdictions are forcing us to go out and make more arrests in general in the community. The safest thing for our officers and the community is for them to hand over these people when they are under their custody, but they refuse to cooperate with us, leaving us no option but to go out and work on these cases broadly,” the federal official said. 

The Trump Administration policy against undocumented immigrants consists of debilitating “sanctuary cities” by way of lawsuits and federal funding cuts, such as interrupting the Global Entry program in New York, which would affect some 170,000 people.