None of the dispatched volunteers encountered enforcement agents knocking on doors, something immigrant advocates had feared after President Donald Trump said Friday heightened ICE raids would begin Sunday. Instead, advocates turned their focus to handing out posters with directions for handling a confrontation with ICE to residents walking their dogs or having a smoke.
Multiple press reports late last week said the raids were expected to unfold over several days and target at least 2,000 immigrants across the country who crossed the southwest border recently and remained in the country after being ordered deported.
The impact of the threatened roundups could be felt at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead. Nearly 30 people attended the Spanish-language service in a side chapel, a little more than half as many as on a typical Sunday. Archdeacon Juan Sandoval said many of those absent were likely too fearful to come.
Sandoval asked attendees to pray for their "neighbors" in federal detention facilities and ended his sermon with three words: "Sí, se puede." The phrase became a rallying cry among Mexican agricultural workers in the southwestern U.S. in the 1970s.
While not a normal utterance at mass, Sandoval said he felt he needed to use the phrase, which literally means “It can be done,” to encourage his congregants to pray and persevere through difficult times.
The usually bustling Plaza Fiesta shopping center on Buford Highway also felt idle, Luz María said. The dress vendor, who declined to give her last name, said the mall is often so busy on Sundays there’s barely any space to walk.
“I’ve never seen it [so empty] in the 19 years I’ve worked here,” she said in Spanish. “I think it must be fear that’s keeping people away.”
Mauricio came to the mall with his 14-year-old daughter to grab a bite to eat and let her play arcade games. The Guatemalan national, who declined to provide his last name, said the thought of being separated from his family scares him as an unauthorized immigrant. But he said he ventured out because children need something to do on a Sunday.
“They need to play and eat,” he said. “It’s not that long until they go back to school.”
Patricio Cambias, one of the ICE Chasers, said Trump’s promise of raids was intended as much to intimidate unauthorized immigrants as enforce federal law.
Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, said Cambias’ characterization was inflammatory and untrue. Anyone critical of ICE’s actions should take it up with their elected officials, not the agency that enforces federal law, he added.