From Little Havana to Little Haiti, migrants' fear of Trump's raids is felt in Miami

Hundreds protest in Homestead, advocates work to keep migrants informed

By Christian De La Rosa - Reporter, Glenna Milberg - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI - Every morning day laborers meet in an area of Miami's Little Haiti to find opportunities at construction sites in South Florida. There wasn't anyone there on Friday. 

Jose Ortega said businesses in Miami's Little Havana are suffering. He is the manager of a barbershop on Flagler Street that was empty all day on Friday. 

"Right now there would be more than 20 people waiting here, but it's empty because everybody is scared," Ortega said. "Nobody wants to go out."

President Donald Trump's warning that a nationwide immigration enforcement operation is set to begin on Sunday has sparked fear in areas of Miami-Dade County. targeting thousands of migrants with final deportation orders

"They are going to take people out and they are going to bring them  back to their countries or they are going to take criminals out and put them in prisons," Trump told reporters on Friday. 

The order will also apply to migrant families whose cases were fast-tracked by judges and Venezuelans who have found refuge in South Florida. In an attempt to protect asylum seekers, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday. 

Immigration advocates are working to raise awareness about immigrants' rights and organized protests Friday. Hundreds of protesters met outside of a detention center in Miami-Dade County's city of Homestead.

Lorena, a migrant who grew up in the United States, said she is tired of hiding. While participating in the protest, she said she qualified for former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some migrants who were brought as children to renew a temporary two-year permit that allows them to become eligible for a work permit.

"The worst fear, you know, is that they show up at your door and pick you up. ... It's harder to sleep at night because you stay up and you worry," Lorena said. "We shouldn't [have to] live in fear because, you know, we are humans and we have rights."

Activists are planning to canvass North Miami, Allapattah, Homestead, Little Havana and Little Haiti -- neighborhoods they fear will be hit by immigration authorities. Paula Muñoz, an advocate with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said migrants are preparing to stay home for the raid by "hunkering down in their homes, not sending their kids to school."

Jorge Marrero said he just wants the nightmare to end. He owns a nail salon in Little Havana and his business is suffering. 

"Some of my clients don't want to go out and about," Marrero said in Spanish. 

The majority of users of public transportation in Miami-Dade County are working-class migrants. Luz Bonilla said most of them wake up early to catch the bus. She has sensed their fear as they courageously head to work. 

"They have been like this, like shaking, and even this morning I saw it," said a migrant, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. "And when you are going in the bus, people don't talk."

The chatting and laughter has now turned into hypervigilance. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez wants residents to remember that Miami Police Department officers will not be getting involved in the federal operation.

"We don't get involved in immigration enforcement," Suarez said.  

Advocates are asking migrants to find out if they have an order of removal by calling an automated information line at 1-800-898-7180. If the case isn't in that database, they are directing migrants to immigration attorneys. 

The Florida Immigrant Coalition is offering migrants help and guidance at 1-888-600-5762. They are advising migrants to avoid opening their doors to immigration agents and to keep and memorize an immigration attorney's phone number.

For more information from advocates, text the word "protection" to 313131.

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