CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On February 18, hundreds are expected to take part in a “Day Without Immigrants” in Charlotte.
The rally comes in response to the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations across the city and state.
Members of Comunidad Colectiva plan to join others next Monday to demonstrate the value immigrants bring to the economy and community.
Manolo Betancur, the owner of Manolo’s Bakery in east Charlotte, made a celebratory cake when Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden terminated the 287(g) program in Mecklenburg County in December.
"It was one of the greatest feelings ever,” Betancur said. “It was a feeling of happiness."
The joy was short-lived as Betancur said recent raids by ICE have sparked fear in the community, which is now affecting his profits.
Betancur posted on Facebook over the weekend that his sales dropped an average of 70 percent in the 36 hours following the ICE operations close to the store.
"I feel the fear of my customers,” Betancur said. “I feel the fear of my employees."
A spokesperson for ICE says officers conduct targeted immigration arrests every day, focusing on criminal offenders and other public safety threats.
According to ICE data, more than 90 percent of people arrested in the Carolinas and Georgia by ICE officers in 2018 either had a prior criminal conviction or pending criminal charge.
"I think the statistics are very clear that we do target enforcement against criminals,” said ICE Atlanta field office director Sean Gallagher at a press conference Friday.
Even so, Betancur, an American citizen, said the recent operations are making the immigrant community afraid they will be arrested just for the color of their skin or the way they look.
“We believe in the freedom of this country, and we came here just to make this country better,” Betancur said. “But this is not the America that we know.”
Betancur said he hopes the “Day Without Immigrants” makes the community realize how vital immigrants are in several industries across Charlotte.
The event will be held from 12 to 3 p.m., February 18 at Marshall Park in Charlotte.