Community Politics

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Yolanda Moore is one of the first people to show up at the U.S. Immigration and Customs office on 7th and Broadway. Her sign–printed in thin, black font–says ‘Dia De Amor Al Inmigrante,’ or ‘Valentine’s Day to the Immigrants’ and is scattered with 17 red hearts.

Moore is protesting a recent federal immigration enforcement operation. Between February 4 and February 10, federal immigration officials arrested 235 people in the Midwest. Fifty-three of those were in Kentucky. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials say the operations are business as usual, and are aimed at fugitives and those with criminal backgrounds

But many worry these operations are a sign of ramped up enforcement against all undocumented immigrants. Of the arrests, Moore says, “They’re just not right.”

Of the 53 arrests ICE made in the Commonwealth, 36 were in Louisville. The rest were in cities including Lexington, Owensboro and Shelbyville. ICE said 22 of those arrested were convicted criminals and 11 were people who had been previously deported. Convictions included DUI, burglary, drug possession and illegal re-entry, and the people arrested were natives of Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, and Mexico.

The few dozen protesters at 7th and Broadway say they feel the recent immigration operations are a direct effect of President Donald Trump attempting to keep his campaign promises. After his election, Trump said he wanted to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Stephen Rose is holding a sign that says “I love my immigrant neighbor.” He wants to see fair immigration and deportation laws. I think deportation is randomly enforced,” he said. “Uniform enforcement is what has to happen.”

Elmer Zavala is a Presbyterian pastor, and says the recent raids are unnerving to many in his congregation. They don’t worship in a traditional church–which now, turns out to be an advantage.

“Now that is good because my community is afraid to go outside because this situation.”

The ICE arrests in the Midwest coincided with hundreds more across the nation including in Texas, California, New York and Georgia.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.