Tomorrow is the walk-out day. Tomorrow is the ‘just don’t buy anything day.’

And this, from the Washington Post, this is happening in my sister’s neighborhood in DC, Columbia-Shaw Heights. My sister is a social worker, and these people are her co-workers, her clients.

::sigh::

Immigrants Fearful Of Random Roundups
By Nancy Trejos

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 29, 2006; Page B03

The recent arrests of illegal immigrants after high-profile federal investigations in other states have sparked rampant rumors that law enforcement officials are randomly targeting the Latino community in the Washington region.

Federal and local law enforcement authorities deny that they are conducting random raids on illegal immigrants in the District, Maryland and Virginia. But rumors of roundups at malls, shops and street corners have become the talk of Spanish-language radio. The stories have spread quickly: One man said two elderly women threw themselves on the ground at a 7-Eleven store on Kenilworth Avenue to avoid getting corralled into a bus of undocumented residents. The leader of an immigrant group said he heard of arrests being made at Columbia Road and 18th Street NW. Reports of buses being stopped in Silver Spring in search of undocumented passengers were heard.

“There’s just so much fear,” said Grace Rivera-Oven of Germantown, who has a local Spanish-language cable program. “There’s a lot of paranoia going on, and people are just afraid.”

Giovanna Tassi, manager of Radio Latina (950 AM), said the station has received dozens of calls with tips about mass arrests or law enforcement officers asking people for identification cards. She said she and her reporters have tried to verify the accounts but have been unsuccessful.

“What we have done is try to calm people down, and what we’ve done is interview immigration attorneys to talk about what to do,” she said.

Dean Boyd, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said yesterday that he has been flooded with calls seeking confirmation of such arrests but that he has found no evidence that they are true. “The suggestion that our agents are going around using intimidation tactics and conducting searches without warrants or making arrests without evidence are false,” he said.

That’s not to say that the agency has been inactive elsewhere. Yesterday, it announced that officers had arrested 106 illegal immigrant fugitives and 19 immigration status violators across the Midwest during a 10-day operation.

“Our arrests and investigations are not random sweeps but carefully planned enforcement actions that often result from long-term investigations in which we build evidence and track down leads and use intelligence,” Boyd said.

He and some local Latino activists said they thought the rumors stemmed from the arrest this month of seven managers of the pallet services company IFCO Systems North America Inc. and more than 1,000 of their undocumented workers in 26 states, including Virginia.

“It was very scary. It affected multiple towns, multiple states,” said Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery). “It was kind of, oh my goodness, here the raids are going to start.”

Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, the umbrella group that has organized recent rallies by immigrants, said he and other immigration activists sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking it to cease such activities, if they are occurring.

“Let the debate go forward without trying to put fear in the immigrant community . . .,” he said. “What’s next? Immigrant concentration camps? I don’t think so.”

True or not, the reports have had a profound impact on the everyday lives of immigrants.

Olga Canas usually has about 100 customers a day at her carryout restaurant, Las Americas, in Gaithersburg. Thursday, after reports of raids, she had only 20 and closed 90 minutes early. “The people were so afraid. The people don’t want to go out and eat,” she said in Spanish.

Carlos Castro, owner of Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge, almost closed his store Thursday night because business was so slow. “Whoever is doing this is doing a great job of making business owners lose money and the general population lose their income,” he said.

Jorge Sactic, owner of the popular La Chapina bakery in Langley Park, said yesterday that business has plummeted over the past few days. “It’s like a ghost town,” he said.

In the words of the friend who fwd’d the article on to me, “There’s an easy way to let our government know that we our concerned about immigration issues—choose not to spend any money tomorrow (Monday).” If this is an issue you can get on board with, I urge you to consider her plea.