Fearing ICE enforcement, residents staying home
by Patrick Kearns
Feb 28, 2017 | 942 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rumors of immigration raids and law enforcement snatching people off the streets are destroying a once-vibrant central shopping and dining district in South Richmond Hill.

Councilman Ruben Wills and immigration activists encouraged residents to continue going about their lives, disputing rumors of checkpoints in Queens.

Wills said he’s received approximately 100 calls from parents unsure whether or not to send their children to school.

And after an accident snarled traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway, false rumors quickly spread that there was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) checkpoint.

“In the past several days, there have been numerous rumors of ICE enforcement actions and checkpoints along Liberty Avenue, which is one of our most vibrant and viable commercial strips,” Wills said. “This has affected foot traffic in the area, leaving many local establishments empty and suffering.

“We should be mindful of the information we are sharing to ensure that it’s accurate,” he added. “If not, the residual effects are harmful and the impact is needlessly negative on our merchants.”

There was at least one arrest in Richmond Hill where ICE was involved, Wills said, but he believes the arrest was justified.

False reports on social media of ICE raids at Guyanese restaurant Sybil’s at Liberty and 132nd avenues caused diners to avoid the establishment.

Dave Khan owns a barbershop on Liberty Avenue and says he's felt the impact of the rumors.

“We lost 70 percent of the business in this neighborhood,” Khan said. “You never see this place so clear.”

Wills is hosting an immigrant rights town hall meeting for constituents on Thursday, March 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Richi Rich Palace at 110-19 Atlantic Avenue.

Khan said even legal immigrants in the largely Guyanese and Trinidadian neighborhood fear being arrested and forced to prove they are in the country legally .

“They are scared they’ll have to get a lawyer to defend their rights,” Khan said. “Especially Muslim people in the community.”
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