The three-quarter-mile walk between 13th and Euclid Streets and 18th and Columbia Road is usually alive with the cultural blend of black, white, and Hispanic faces and accents. My latent Latin blood never fails to stir at the beat of the Mexican salsa blasted from the Guatemalan disco shop.
Yet on this Thursday afternoon the streets seem oddly empty. The small concrete park in front of the Churreria Madrid restaurant, often filled with local musicians, lies bare.
I arrive at my destination, a family drop-in center, and learn that almost no one has come for its free lunches all week, and not many are expected for dinner.
In yet another "necessary" maneuver to improve our troubled economy, the Reagan administration approved efforts by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to oust "illegal aliens" from jobs that could be held by unemployed citizens. During the week of May 2, 400 INS agents descended on major cities like Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York, and Los Angeles, raiding workplaces. By the week's end, the Washington Post reported that about 5,800 people had been captured.
The streets were empty in Washington that week because hundreds of Salvadorans, Mexicans, and other Latin Americans were in hiding, living in fear of "Operation Jobs." While I was at the drop-in center, Roberto told me he had seen five Latino men arrested by INS agents while crossing 18th Street. Juanita got word that another 200 had been arrested along nearby Connecticut Avenue.
Washington had not been mentioned on the official hit list, but the agents are here, and the people know it. Word spreads quickly among those who are being hunted. They know that Operation Jobs is officially sanctioned white-collar terrorism designed to unemploy the desperately needy and rid the country of "undesirables."