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Advocates for rounded-up workers show support for the 'Buffalo 25'

Patrick Koster/WBFO News

La Divina cook Antonio Robles said it was a typical day at work last Tuesday. He was doing prep work when officers raided the restaurant and ordered him to get on the floor. Now, he wears a 24-hour ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts. A rally was staged Tuesday morning at the Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue, not far away from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office. Advocates for the 25 undocumented workers rounded up in raids at four Mexican restaurants last week marched to the office, saying prayers and singing songs before the workers went in.

Robles spoke to reporters through his translator, Carlos Rojas, before his ICE check-in appointment.

“He said it’s just been overall really said,” Rojas said. “You’re afraid to be at home, you’re afraid to step out of your home, you don’t know if ICE is monitoring you. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security raided Don Tequila on Allen Street and Agave on Elmwood in Buffalo, El Agave on Union Road in Cheektowaga and La Divina on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore one week ago. The workers face deportation. The owner of four local Mexican restaurants, as well as two other individuals, have been charged with harboring illegal immigrants.

Robles was working at La Divina in Kenmore to support his family.

“He said that his immediate family is in Mexico,” Rojas said. “When they found out, they were very scared for him. They don’t know what’s going to happen to him, and right now, that’s really the word, this uncertainty. We don’t know if they’re going to go in and come out, if they’re going to say ‘You need to be detained, we’re going to supervise you through the ankle bracelet, we’re going to give you daily calls.’ ICE has many ways that they keep in check.”

Sergio Ramses Mucino, 42, who owns the restaurants, Jose Sanches Ocampo, 37, and Marguin Sanchez, 22, face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to a quarter-million dollars, if convicted.

Credit Patrick Koster/WBFO News

Open Buffalo Economic and Climate Justice Coordinator Harper Bishop was at the rally and march. She said she thinks the presidential election has created negative feelings toward undocumented workers.

“We, as a community, need to stick together,” Bishop said. “We stand up for workers’ rights, we stand up for those in our community, those that are an integral part of our lives. We know that this political climate has caused a lot of upheaval through a lot of rhetoric going on that is making people feel like they are not welcome in this country, but they are. They’re welcome here.”

Bishop thinks Buffalo’s support for social justice has grown in recent years.

“What people are expecting is that Buffalo won’t stand up and fight back against ICE; that people won’t stand up against injustice, but that day is long gone,” Bishop said. “In the new Buffalo, we do stand up for injustice and we do stand up for immigrants, we do stand up for undocumented workers, we do stand up for those on the fringes of society that have been cast off.”

PUSH Buffalo Field Organizing Manager Emily Terrana echoed that notion.

“I think this really shows that Buffalo is the city of good neighbors. We’ve seen so much love and support from the community all across Western New York and even beyond, we have national organizers here with us. Really the whole country is looking at Buffalo right now as the center of the immigration struggle and against deportation.”

Many at the rally referred to the group of workers as the "Buffalo 25," also using the hashtag #Buffalo25.