Every year in South Philadelphia, nearly 60,000 people would gather in the streets to reenact and celebrate the Battle of May 5, 1862, where the Mexican Army defeated the French during the Battle of Puebla.
This year, due to fears of a massive deportation raid, the organizers of the annual parade cancelled the event a week before it was supposed to occur.
“With this new government that we have right now, we see them acting in more aggressive ways towards immigrant communities. With this increased enforcement activity that’s been going on, even people with legal status are feeling really worried about becoming the targets of enforcement activity.”
– Marcos Martinez, Casa Latina
“We don’t want any incidents. There’s a little bit of fear in the community,” event organizer Edgar Ramirez told CNN. “It’s sad to cancel the event, but we don’t want difficulties for anyone.”
The organizers feared that the thousands of attendees would be targeted by federal immigration agents, as many of whom travel to the festival from other U.S. cities and from Mexico.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responded to the incident in an email saying that their “enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven.”
“ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said in the email. “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion peacefully without interference.”
However, President Donald Trump’s administration has been invoking fear into immigrant communities since the beginning of his presidential campaign.
In his first week of office, President Trump signed executive orders advancing the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, boosting the deportation force and removing federal funding for sanctuary cities.
Students in Seattle U’s chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) have been processing these changes. Second year international studies and Spanish major Emi Montenegro explained that this year the organization has been focusing its efforts on providing a space to learn about intersectional Chicanx issues.
“I think it’s interesting how here I’ve definitely started to hear more [of ], ‘We want to recognize that we’re on stolen Duwamish land,’ at events, so we have been trying to incorporate a lot of that, and also other marginalized groups and communities,” she added.
Another organization, Casa Latina, is a nonprofit that works to help men and women in Latinx communities find employment opportunities. Casa Latina also focuses on public policy and community organizing to improve the social conditions that immigrant communities live under.
Marcos Martinez, Executive Director of Casa Latina, explains that these fears of deportation have impacted undocumented folks all across King County
“With this new government that we have right now, we see them acting in more aggressive ways towards immigrant communities,” Martinez said. “With this increased enforcement activity that’s been going on, even people with legal status are feeling really worried about becoming the targets of enforcement activity.”
However, Martinez said that organizations like Casa Latina, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union are working hard to both educate their communities about what their rights are, and making sure that Seattle is fully realizing its status as a sanctuary city.
Martinez said that these organizations work with the police force and the court system to have the best policies in place for undocumented communities. He also said that smaller cities and municipalities in King County are working to extend the policies of a sanctuary city outside of the city of Seattle. Towns like Auburn and Kent have started taking up official resolutions to declare themselves a sanctuary city, and are actively working to best protect their residents.
However, despite King county’s efforts, the Trump administration’s upheaval of ICE has led to deportations in the Pacific Northwest Region. In Tacoma, the Northwest Detention Center has 1,500 beds for those who have been seized, but not yet deported. As of April 14, the population count of the facility was 1,401.
The deportation process can take anywhere from weeks to months, and in mid-April, around 750 detainees went on hunger strike to protest the quality of food, facility hygiene, access to medical care and lack of recreation. The strike ended at the end of April, but reiterates the work that immigrant communities are doing to protect themselves.
In addition to the new administration, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project received a federal request from the Department of Justice ordering them to stop giving undocumented immigrants help with paperwork.
NWIRP filed for a temporary restraining order against the Department of Justice’s request on Tuesday May 9th, citing that it would deny thousands of unrepresented immigrants of receiving assistance in understanding the law and the immigration system.
Martinez said that whatever policies the new administration puts in place, the immigrant community and its partner organizations will not stop fighting for their rights.
“All these things are going to continue happening as the government keeps trying to ratchet up their activities,” he said. “Our communities will continue to respond.”
Anna may be reached at