‘Nobody Opened the Door’: Neighbors Rally During an ICE Raid in Houston

HOUSTON — The immigration raid early Monday morning at the El Paraiso Apartments in Houston was not exactly a major victory for immigration enforcement. It was foiled, in part, by 19-year-old Kaylin Garcia.

Shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, Ms. Garcia was sitting in her car near her family’s apartment, in a largely Hispanic section of southwest Houston about 15 miles from downtown. She saw four Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents walk by — one dressed in camouflage fatigues and the others wearing black T-shirts and bulletproof vests. They were knocking on apartment doors. She took a picture of the agents with her phone, posted it to her Facebook page and notified some of her neighbors.

At least one of her neighbors saw Ms. Garcia’s picture and heard about her warnings — the family slid the chain closed on their door. When the agents knocked on the door, the family — an undocumented Honduran man and his wife, along with their American-born children and another relative — kept silent and never opened it. After a minute or two, the agents left.

“I wasn’t scared,” Ms. Garcia said. “I was scared for my neighbors.” She added, “Nobody opened the door.”

The anticipated large-scale ICE raids aimed at rounding up at least 2,000 migrant parents and children appear to have run into similar problems in other parts of the country. With widespread publicity about the raids, many undocumented migrants have been counseled to avoid opening their doors. Neighbors, immigration lawyers and migrant rights advocates are issuing warnings when any ICE agents are spotted. Following any report of a raid — real or rumored — the news media descends within minutes: At El Paraiso in the afternoon, Ms. Garcia spoke to a pack of television and newspaper reporters who had converged on the complex.

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CreditKaylin Garcia

President Trump said on Monday that the raids that began over the weekend were “very successful,” though it wasn’t clear what operations he was referring to. Immigrant lawyers and advocacy groups reported only scattered raids that seemed to result in relatively few arrests.

“Many, many were taken out on Sunday; you just didn’t know about it,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House event. “It was a very successful day, but you didn’t see a lot of it.”

In the suburbs northeast of Atlanta, immigrant advocates reported at least two encounters with ICE agents. In one of them, they said, immigration agents were involved in a vehicle pursuit of two people; the two eventually ditched their car outside a chiropractic clinic and fled on foot, said Adelina Nicholls, director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. In another case reported to her group, immigration authorities reportedly stopped a white van with an unspecified number of passengers.

The Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee reported that ICE officers surrounded a car in Minneapolis on Monday morning and when the occupant apparently locked the doors, officers busted out the back window, unlocked the doors and dragged the person out. Their account was based on witnesses who spoke to members of the committee when they arrived on the scene a short time later.

“We then took pictures of the damaged window on the car of the man who had been detained,” the group said in a statement. “You can see how all the glass fell into the car filling his child’s car seat. He left his work bag in the front seat and his coffee mug in the holder still steaming with hot coffee.”

ICE officials have not officially commented on the raids, and did not confirm any reports on their operations. It was not clear whether the incidents reported involved the administration’s latest plan to deport recently arrived migrant families, or were routine operations targeting various people with deportation orders. The agency arrested 158,581 immigrants overall in the 2018 fiscal year, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

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CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Across the country, many undocumented immigrants were staying home and avoiding public places.

In Chicago, the normally bustling Discount Mall in the heart of the city’s mainly Latino Little Village neighborhood stood eerily quiet on Monday, as it had over the past several days because of fears of ICE encounters. “There’s hardly people here no more,” said Krisandra Ruvalcaba, a store owner, as she organized shelves of religious statues and paintings, Guns N’ Roses T-shirts, blankets and shoes — with few customers around to buy them.

Regina Kang, whose family owns the nearby Viva Fashion store, said a number of her employees had failed to show up for work. “They tell me, ‘I can’t come in,’” she said. “I’m understanding about it, it’s a scary time.”

People exchanged information about the ICE operations on a Facebook page. One person posted: “Please Help, Friend with restaurant in MA needs to train staff & terrified workers how to deal with ICE. Resources?”

Susana Salgado, a manager at Centro Romero, an immigration and family service center on Chicago’s North Side, said teachers had spent the past week teaching students at their summer program what to do should ICE agents come to their door. “We tell them to be careful when they answer, even if they think, ‘Oh, it’s the pizza delivery guy,’” she said. “These children have had the same training as we give to adults.”

At the El Paraiso Apartments in Houston, Ms. Garcia, her neighbors and even workers at the complex said they were proud to have had a hand in making ICE’s job more difficult on Monday morning. Still, though ICE officials declined to discuss the details of their operation at the apartment complex, residents and workers said they believed a few people were taken away.

“I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t think it was going to happen here,” said Odilia Leija, the property manager. “I started making out a letter for my residents, letting them know they don’t have to open their doors, making sure they look out their windows before they open doors. They’re all working people. We do criminal background checks. We got good residents.”

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CreditJoshua Lott for The New York Times

The family who had been warned by Ms. Garcia sat together in their living room on Monday afternoon, still rattled, even hours later, by the knock on the door that morning.

A 21-year-old cousin who lives with the family was the one who heard the agents — they knocked on the door two or three times, he said, and announced: “Please open the door. This is ICE.”

“I didn’t say anything,” said the man, who, like the rest of the family, was fearful of having his name published. “I was silent. Everyone else was silent, too.” After a minute or two, he said, they left.

“I was a little bit afraid,” said the man, who had just been released in June from an ICE detention facility in Texas. “I wasn’t so much afraid for myself, but I was afraid for my cousin, who is undocumented.”

The couple’s 9-year-old son wanted to go outside and see the TV cameras, but his parents were reluctant, deciding against going outdoors at all — for how long, they couldn’t say. “We’re not going to leave,” said the husband, who works in construction. “They could come back later. I canceled everything.”

Eventually, the couple allowed their son to leave the apartment. He went around the complex knocking on neighbors’ doors — in this case, to hand out fliers to the neighbors, in Spanish, advising them of their rights in case the ICE agents came back.

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