March 11, 2017
By Ivey De Jesus
The shelves in Moises Sandoval's store brim with rows of noodle and tortilla bags, tins of frijoles, bottles of salsa picante and stacks of seasonings and spices.
Business for Sandoval, the proprietor of La Estrella - a green grocer and dried-goods market along Derry Street that caters mainly to Mexicans and Central Americans - has been very good over the years as the Allison Hill neighborhood welcomed legions of families from those regions.
These days, though, business is slow.
"Business has died," Sandoval said Friday, standing behind the register counter, with, at the time, only one customer in the store.
"The majority of people have left. They have left for other counties or cities. Some people just aren't coming out."
Sandoval attributes the reason for the downturn to the reports of raids by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE. Since January, he estimates, more than 200 people in the immediate area have been apprehended.
"My business is dying," he said. "I depend on the Hispanic community. Now we are going to have to close for the next four years.
Sandoval is alluding to the plan put forth by President Trump to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. Across the country, media reports recount narratives of surprise pre-dawn ICE raids on homes, workplaces and even shelters, although ICE has yet to put a figure to the activity. Instead, it has released statements to media outlets indicating that the current rate is consistent with that of recent years.
But for the business community of this largely Latino enclave of Allison Hill, the specter of ICE has had a significant impact on the community.
Sandoval said he has seen a 70 percent decrease in his business.
Across the street, Salvador Sandoval, who helps out in his father's business Tacos Mi Tierra, a Mexican restaurant, said that rumors abound across the community of ICE raids, and that while people tend to exaggerate, 200 seems a low estimate.
"I'm not going to lie," he said Friday as he helped to prep the food ingredients. "I'm not downplaying it. It has had an effect."
He said he hears reports of families being separated after ICE detains a member of a family.
"People are scared," Salvador Sandoval said.
Victor Acosta, owner of Paks Supermarket on the corner of Derry and 13th streets, said the reports of ICE raids continue to keep a lot of customers away.
"People are fearful," he said. "They don't want to go out."
Acosta said he has seen ICE stakeouts near the entrance to Interstate 83, and at times has seen agents leading those arrested into white vans.
With customers from across the whole of Latin America, Acosta said the current state of fear among some of Allison Hill's residents has trickled down to his business.
"We feel the impact," he said.
Source: Penn Live