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How Immigrant Communities In Chicago Are Preparing For Planned ICE Raids


Major American cities are bracing for raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement beginning Sunday. ICE is expected to target a few thousand recently arrived migrant families who have deportation orders. Other immigrants in the U.S. illegally fear being caught in the dragnet. From WBEZ in Chicago, Maria Ines Zamudio brings us one family's story.

EDUARDO: No, this (unintelligible).

MARIA ZAMUDIO, BYLINE: Eduardo, an undocumented immigrant, often jokes with his customers. After working for decades in other restaurants, Eduardo saved enough money to open this Mexican restaurant two months ago. It's on Chicago's South Side. But now he's afraid of losing it and his family.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) We're just starting this small business. This is for my children's future. But we're starting it during this difficult time for immigrants. It's a little intimidating.

ZAMUDIO: President Trump has threatened nationwide raids for weeks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it's only enforcing the law. Meanwhile, immigrants like Eduardo are planning for the worst. Some are moving. Some are refusing to leave their homes. Advocates are telling immigrant communities they don't have to open the door unless agents have a warrant signed by a judge, but Eduardo is vowing to keep his restaurant open on Sunday.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) Opening for me - it's symbolic.

ZAMUDIO: He says he doesn't want to give in to the fear.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) Fear is like a snowball. If I'm afraid, my children will be afraid. Then their friends will be afraid. And then their friends will pass it to their families, and it becomes this uncontrollable snowball.

ZAMUDIO: Eduardo moved to Chicago almost 20 years ago without a visa. He asked that we not use his full name. His wife, Erika, and four children are all U.S. citizens. Now the family is preparing in case he's caught. Eduardo wants his wife to learn how to run the business just in case.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) She would be the one who would run the business. We have children, and I'm not certain what their future would be if I were to take them to Mexico.

ZAMUDIO: But Erika, who's pregnant, says the idea of caring for her children and running a restaurant is too much. But she's agreed to learn how to run the grill.

ERIKA: (Through interpreter) I would feel a lot of pressure because I don't know much about this. It wasn't until we opened that I started learning, but I haven't learned everything. I just don't accept it. I tell him, don't worry about it; nothing's going to happen.

ZAMUDIO: The threat of deportation feels overwhelming to Eduardo's 8-year-old daughter Rosa, too. She's very close to her father.

ROSA: Only my dad had told me that sometimes he might leave one day. Sometimes maybe he could leave.

ZAMUDIO: How does that make you feel?

ROSA: Sad 'cause I love him a lot.

ZAMUDIO: Rosa is an energetic girl who loves school.

ROSA: I won in a math competition, and I got a trophy. They gave me a certificate for getting the highest score in math.

ZAMUDIO: It's for that reason Eduardo doesn't want to take his children with him if he's deported. He grew up in the impoverished southern Mexican state of Guerrero, where there are few educational opportunities.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) I'm not just thinking about myself because they are getting the worst part of it.

ZAMUDIO: He stops talking and tries to hold back tears.

EDUARDO: (Through interpreter) They are my fuel. They are my engine. They are my everything.

ZAMUDIO: His daughter Rosa says she can't imagine living apart from him.

Are you a daddy's girl?

ROSA: Yes - hug him and just hug him and hug him and hug him and sometimes sleep with him. He even has a tattoo of me. Papi...

ZAMUDIO: Rosa walks to the kitchen to show me her father's tattoo.

ROSA: He has it on his elbow. Over there, he has my name and - like that.

ZAMUDIO: For Eduardo, it's a small reminder of his daughter that will always be with him no matter what happens. For NPR News, I'm Maria Zamudio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Maria Zamudio