Philadelphia Cancels Cinco de Mayo Over Immigration Crackdown

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By Emily Zanotti | 4:44 pm, March 19, 2017

Organizers of one of the nation’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations are scrapping the event this year because they’re concerned with the Trump Administration’s increased focus on curbing illegal immigration.

Philadelphia’s “El Carnaval de Puebla,” an annual celebration that draws more than 15,000 people to Philly’s Mexican-American community, is canceled, organizers say. Their fear is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will show up and cart off parade participants.

Organizer Edgar Ramirez told the local news that the decision was “sad but responsible” in light of “large scale arrests and deportations” happening in most major cities.

ICE announced this week that 248 undocumented immigrants are awaiting deportation after those sweeps, which targeted Philadelphia as well as areas in Delaware and West Virginia. But ICE says agents aren’t simply showing up at Latin-themed gatherings and arresting everyone on the spot.

“ICE’s enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” Philadelphia ICE Officer Khaalid Walls said.

ICE admits that it has targeted and arrested individuals in Philadelphia. But, according to Philadelphia ICE director Jennifer Ritchey, who provided NBC News with a written statement, the city was warned of the operation and instructed that they could turn over the undocumented immigrants for arrest. Philly, a “sanctuary city,” refused, so ICE said it stepped in to prevent ”a situation that puts the public at unnecessary risk,” Ritchey added.

Elsewhere, ICE says they’re focusing on “criminal aliens”—people they say aren’t just violating immigration laws but who also have outstanding warrants for other, serious crimes. ICE doesn’t deny that there is an ongoing, aggressive program to find and deport lawbreakers.

So far, however, ICE hasn’t produced any evidence to show that they are only sweeping up “criminal aliens,” and immigrant-aid groups say there’s no way to tell until the cases make it to immigration court. Currently, those courts are experiencing a backlog, so it could be weeks or months before some of ICE’s detainees are assessed.