A popular Cinco de Mayo festival in Philadelphia has been cancelled due to increasing fears of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.
El Carnaval de Puebla has taken place in South Philadelphia in late April or early May for the past 10 years and is the city's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration. But according to event organizer Edgar Ramirez, the decision to cancel the festivities was "sad but responsible."
"The group of six organizers decided to cancel unanimously," Ramirez told NBC10. "Everyone is offended by the actions of ICE. They did not feel comfortable holding the event."
The event garners as many as 15,000 people annually from all parts of the country, and the choice to cancel the festival was made to keep these people safe, according to Ramirez.
"We have people who travel all the way from Chicago, Connecticut and New York," he said. "We don't want anything to happen to them."
David Piña, a founder of the Carnaval, said to Al Día News that cancelling the event is also "to raise a voice of protest" in response to the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies.
Carnaval de Puebla en Philadelphia announced the cancellation in a Facebook post, stating (translated from Spanish), "Today we just want solidarity because together we will come through these uncertain times."
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said, "I'm devastated to hear that ICE has had such a chilling effect that Philadelphians no longer feel comfortable engaging in this public celebration."
Florencia Gonzalez, a South Philly resident, said to NBC10, "Everyone's pretty much afraid because they're saying that, basically, ICE is just gonna come out of nowhere."
A spokesman for ICE Philadelphia rejected that notion, saying in a statement, "ICE's enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately."
ICE announced on March 14 that 248 people had been arrested over a two-week period in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware during raids.
"ICE will continue to conduct targeted enforcement operations, whether local jurisdictions intend to cooperate with ICE or not," ERO Philadelphia Acting Field Office Director Jennifer Ritchey said.
For his part, President Donald Trump last year on Cinco de Mayo (at which time he was the presumptive Republican nominee) made what Latino community leaders considered a demeaning post on Twitter. He posted a picture of himself happily eating a "taco bowl" to commemorate the day. The caption reads, "Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!"
Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico's Battle of Puebla against France, which ended in victory for the Mexican army. In the U.S., it's usually celebrated with happy hours and food and drink specials and is often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day. Not only did Trump refer to it as a Hispanic holiday rather than Mexican, he ate a "taco bowl," otherwise known as a taco salad, which actually originated in Texas.
Philadelphia is considered a sanctuary city. "Sanctuary cities" is a broad term used to described areas that, in general, do not unlawfully hold immigrants simply at the request of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unless he or she has been charged with a serious crime.
In January PolitiFact investigated a statement made by Joe DeFelice, Philadelphia's GOP chairman, saying that the city's sanctuary status is endangering residents.
"From the release of a child rapist from the Dominican Republican (sic) to that of an Italian drug smuggler, Philadelphians have already been put in direct danger by Mayor Kenney's policy of blocking local law enforcement from participating with federal immigration authorities," DeFelice reportedly said in an email.
The statement was referring to two immigrants charged with sexual assault and drug crimes, respectively.
But a spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney said the opposite is in fact true: "Philadelphia's crime rate is at a 40-year-low at the same time our immigrant growth is on the rise. This drop in crime is due in no small part to the fact that our immigration policy has strengthened trust between communities and police."
According to PolitiFact, "The notion that sanctuary policies are safer is supported in research. According to a Center for American Progress report published late last week, sanctuary counties have lower crime rates. As we explained in an earlier report, looking at sanctuary policies alone wouldn't account for other factors that could be influencing crime rates, but the CAP's report compared nearly 2,500 counties, based on ICE's designations."
Late last month Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said that mayors and politicians who represent sanctuary cities should be prosecuted. He emphasized specifically holding those mayors accountable as a way to deter others: "I'm telling you right now folks: You charge one mayor, one governor, one council president … this stuff is going to end right away."
Other sanctuary cities include Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in grant money to Travis County, which includes sanctuary city Austin, after the county sheriff said she would limit her department's cooperation with federal immigration officers.