FLEISCHMANNS — About 6:30 a.m. Wednesday U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surrounded 507 Main St. in Fleischmanns looking for illegal immigrants, according to eyewitness Leland Johnson.
“There were four or five cars with a couple of ICE agents in each car,” said Johnson, a village maintenance worker.
It is unclear whether any undocumented immigrants were found in the apartment building or arrested.
ICE Acting Press Secretary Jennifer Elzea did not respond by 6 p.m. to a noon call or a 3:30 p.m. email seeking information about the incident.
Robert W. Allison Sr., owner of Catskill Region Surveying Services, across the street from the apartments, said there are multiple Mexican immigrant families living in that building.
“I know many of the Mexican folks in Fleischmanns,” said Allison, a former deputy mayor of Margaretville. “They seem like very nice folks, spiritual, hardworking people.”
Word of ICE’s presence in the village spread quickly among residents.
“I’m opposed to these groups like the Gestapo coming in and taking innocent people,” said Fred Woller, deputy mayor of Fleischmanns and a member of the Board of Trustees. “We have no foreigners in this village who aren’t respectable.”
Neighbors voiced concerns about federal agents entering the village to question residents.
“I just find it really disturbing that ICE comes into our community,” said Nancy Greenmadia, an English-as-second-language teacher. “It feels like they’re coming for everyone.”
Wednesday’s incident was not the first time ICE has appeared in this community of 325 residents. Hugo Sarabia, a Mexican immigrant in his late teens living in Fleischmanns, said ICE took his father, Angel Sarabia, and a co-worker into custody last March.
“Immigration went to his work place at Shamros Tire & Auto Service and handcuffed my dad,” Sarabia said. “My dad is illegal, so that’s why they wanted to take him.”
“They ran his fingerprints searching for criminal records,” Sarabia said. “They didn’t find anything and released him, because he was the only provider for me and my two sisters.”
Sarabia said his mother is dead so his father is solely responsible for three children.
A dispatcher at the New York State Police station in Margaretville said he has no information about the incident, and a state police spokesman said his organization is not routinely notified of ICE activities in the area and had no information regarding federal agents in Fleischmanns.