ICE Operations Spark Fear, Rumors in NYC's Immigrant Communities

People living in immigrant communities in New York City say fear is taking a toll on daily life after last week's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement operations sparked rumors and false information in their neighborhoods.

In Woodside, Queens, the silence was deafening at El Mariachi restaurant at lunchtime Tuesday, normally a bustling hour for the eatery. Ashley Garcia, whose parents own restaurant, says there hasn't been much eat-in business since the weekend.

"It's a different environment now, it's more scared, and you can definitely feel it," she said. "A lot of people used to come here all the time. We used to do 300 covers." 

The number of deliveries, on the other hand, have skyrocketed. Garcia believes many undocumented immigrants are scared to leave their homes. 

At Catholic Charities, where the organization has been hosting a weeklong telethon answering immigration questions, phones have been ringing nonstop.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan said in a climate of fear, truth is power, and Catholic Charities has been working to stop the spread of misinformation. 

"We have calls about people questioning whether they should go to school because they're afraid of the confusion and afraid of the atmosphere that is out there," said Sullivan, estimating they received 500 calls in a three- or four-hour block.

"Even if they may not have all the correct documents, they have rights," he said. "And so they can act within the law to protect their rights to take advantage of all the court system, and the United States has to protect individuals."

ICE officials tells NBC 4 New York that last weekend's roundup of undocumented immigrants was business as usual. There are no sweeps or checkpoints -- ICE conducts what it calls targeted enforcement of wanted criminals, not random stops of people on the street.

Garcia hopes facts win over fear and people end up filling the seats of her parents' restaurant again.

"They're limited to just staying home, they're trapped in their own cages," she said. 

ICE officials say if someone is approached by a person who identifies himself or herself as a federal immigration officer, the person should respectfully ask to see the person's badge and credentials. If the officer asks for money, call police immediately. 

Additionally, more information can be found on ICE policies on sensitive locations -- like schools, hospitals, churches and demonstrations -- here. 

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