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Houston’s Immigrant Communities Take Precautions Despite Delay Of ICE Raids

Houston’s flea market off Airline Drive attracted smaller crowds Sunday. On most weekends, the market draws in hundreds of Spanish-speaking immigrant families.

A quieter Sunday than usual at Houston's Tia Pancha Flea Market.
Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
A quieter Sunday than usual at Houston’s Tia Pancha Flea Market.

President Trump called off threats of deportations in Houston and nine other cities, but that didn’t stop local immigrant communities from taking extra precautions.

Some opted to stay home, instead of risking a potential run-in with immigration law enforcement.

Houston's flea market off Airline Drive attracts large crowds of Spanish-speaking immigrant families most weekends.

But on Sunday, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids were originally planned to occur, vendors told Houston Public Media they saw smaller crowds than normal.


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Leo, who asked us not to use his last name, sells car accessories at the market every weekend and said in Spanish that he's seen a drop in business.

"The business is doing worse because a lot of people are afraid because they found out there were going to be raids and people don’t come here [to the market],” said Leo.

Compared to last weekend, crowds are somewhat smaller, he said.

Even though the enforcement actions were intended for people with final deportation orders, he said undocumented immigrants worry that if they are close to a raid while it happens, they might get picked up as well.

Cities across the country saw increased fear in their communities, according to media reports. In Colorado, the Denver Post reported that threats of raids and bad weather caused the cancellation of a Latino Festival. In Maryland, an immigrant family slept in a van outside their church fearing raids, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Immigration fears in the Trump era

Trump’s continued rhetoric against undocumented immigrants, in addition to policy changes, have also caused long-term impacts on how immigrant communities are accessing social programs.

Programs like WIC, which offers nutritional assistance for expecting moms and their children, have seen a significant decrease in enrollment locally and statewide.

Houston Health Department's WIC Bureau Chief, Zahra Koopaei, said local enrollment has dropped by nearly 20,000 clients since Trump was elected.

"It started out actually since the election, we were at 72,000 at the time," she previously told Houston Public Media. "Currently, we're 52,000 and some clients."

She's been working with WIC in Houston for nearly 30 years and said she's never seen this drastic of a drop in enrollment.

"We have never had this issue before, never dropping by chunks like this. Our clients are worried. They are scared to come to us," she said.

Families with a mixed immigration status are also opting out of health care and food stamps for their qualifying citizen children.