Harrisburg immigrants afraid to leave homes amid apparent ICE arrest increase

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Residents in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill neighborhood are worried about an apparent rise in immigration arrests in recent days and weeks.

Federal authorities say they’re targeting undocumented immigrants across the country who have committed crimes, but neighbors in the community say the detainments reach further than that.

Parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Parrish on Market Street say their friends just want to work and raise their families, but that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has other ideas.

Maximiliano and Lila Lara are both members of the congregation. They came here legally decades ago and started a family.

“I got married in 1979,” Lila Lara said. “I had my two kids.”

The couple, whose kids are both dentists now, worry about others in their community who are here illegally.

“They are with their families and kids and they – right now, they are very scared to even go to the stores,” Lara said.

“I mean, parents, they’re afraid even to send their kids to school,” Father Orlando Reyes said. Several of his parishioners have been arrested in recent days, the head of the St. Francis congregation said.

A month ago, ICE officials started targeting arrests, they said, on public safety threats, immigration fugitives, and those who have been deported previously.

It follows promises by President Trump on the campaign trail and in the White House to do just that — to focus on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.

In a statement emailed to ABC27 on Friday, ICE officials didn’t say how many people have been arrested here, why, or whether it represents an increase over normal operations in the area.

“ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending deportable foreign nationals,” the officials said.

“The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s fugitive operations teams on a daily basis.”

The officials also declined to say if the arrests and detainments would continue at the same rate.

Reyes said those causing trouble shouldn’t be in the country, but that ICE is not stopping with them. “Not everybody is a troublemaker,” he said. “They’ve been taking people that have nothing to do with it.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said they’re monitoring similar reports they’ve received from around the state for any racial profiling or improper detainments, but currently, they’re not directly involved in the situation.

Harrisburg police also are not involved, a spokesman said Friday morning, although they, too, had heard the stories in recent weeks of increasing arrests.

Meanwhile, the Laras pray for a change in policy.

“What are they going to do if the parents are deported?” Lila Lara asked. “How are they going to live. How are they going to be here?”

“This is not what this nation is about,” Reyes said. “This is not what our community’s about.”

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