Immigration Sweep Brings Fear To Community

Elliot Spagat, AP, June 18, 2006

Fewer parents are walking their children to school in this border city’s Linda Vista neighborhood. The crowd of day laborers huddled in a parking lot outside McDonald’s has dropped by half.

A sense of unease has spread in this community of weather-worn homes since immigration agents began walking the streets as part of a stepped-up nationwide effort targeting an estimated 590,000 immigrant fugitives. Other illegal immigrants are being rounded up along the way.

Juana Osorio, an illegal immigrant from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, said her neighbors have largely stayed indoors since agents visited her apartment complex June 2.

,” Osorio, 37, said as she clutched a bottle of laundry detergent in a barren courtyard. “They walk in fear.”

Her husband, Juan Rivera, 29, has stopped taking their two children to the park on weekends. “We want to go out but we can’t,” said Rivera, a construction worker.

In a blitz that began May 26 and ended Tuesday, federal agents arrested nearly 2,200 illegal immigrants, including about 400 in the San Diego area—more than any other city.

It was the latest salvo in a crackdown on illegal immigration that has included arrests of nearly 1,200 workers at a supplier of wooden cargo pallets and the deployment of National Guard troops on the Mexican border. Meantime, Congress is considering a broad overhaul of immigration laws.

All this has immigrants on edge, even in places such as San Diego that are home to thousands of illegals, many of whom have lived openly for years.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said about half the 2,179 people arrested in the 19-day nationwide raids—dubbed Operation Return to Sender—had criminal records, including convictions for sexual assault of a minor, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.

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