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Fearing Immigration Raid, Hispanic Group Cancels Cinco de Mayo Festival

FILE- In this March 3, 2015 photo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers escort an arrestee in an apartment building, in the Bronx borough of New York, during a series of early-morning raids. New York City leaders are trying to strike a balance between purging dangerous criminals and protecting some of its roughly 500,000 undocumented immigrants. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The organizers of a large Cinco de Mayo celebration in Philadelphia, Penn., have canceled this year’s celebration due to fears of a nationwide crackdown on illegal immigration.

“We have people who travel all the way from Chicago, Connecticut and New York,” Edgar Ramirez, one of the organizers of El Carnaval de Puebla, told NBC 10 News of Philadelphia. “We don’t want anything to happen to them.”

Ramirez said the six organizers of the event agreed unanimously to cancel the parade, and that the decision was “sad but responsible” in the present climate, where immigrant communities feel targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“The group of six organizers decided to cancel unanimously,” Ramirez said. “Everyone is offended by the actions of ICE. They did not feel comfortable holding the event.”

A post announcing the event cancellation on the group’s Facebook page says: “Your safety and welfare is the most important.” During El Carnaval de Puebla in previous years, attendees would see reenactments of the battle May 5, 1862, when the Mexican army defeated French forces. The French army returned in 1963 and won.

Conducting a raid on a public parade to round up illegal immigrants would be a change from ICE’s standard procedure. “ICE’s enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven,” Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for ICE, told NBC 10. “ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”

Residents seem to be worried about ICE raids despite official policy. “Everyone’s pretty much afraid because they’re saying that, basically, ICE is just going to come in out of nowhere,” Florencia Gonzalez, a Philadelphia resident, told NBC 10.

“I’m devastated to hear that ICE has had such a chilling effect that Philadelphians no longer feel comfortable engaging in this public celebration,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.


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