Food traders are leaving the streets of New York City for fear of deportation.
In a narrow alley behind a busy queen’s road, hernan’s kitchen produces more than 4,000 oil strips a day for street vendors to sell in New York City. Starting at 3 a.m., hours before the nearby storekeeper opened the front door, the kitchen was filled with churro’s batter, hitting the side of a large industrial blender.
The dough is made from a long dispenser and placed in extremely hot oil. This deep-fried doughnut, topped with sugar and cinnamon, piled high on Hernan’s wife’s baking tray.
Elnan moved quickly, took the dough out of the blender, and got to the fryer, so when his supplier came to take the order, the oil was ready. Time is of the essence – he can’t risk losing more buyers.
It took 14 years for Mr Elnan to start wholesale his churro business, but only one week after Donald trump was elected to lose half his customers.
“My business has had a big impact this year and my suppliers are afraid they will be caught and deported.” Hernan said in Spanish. We did not use his or other supplier’s full name for fear of deportation. “They have left and are now doing other kinds of work.”
In the first 100 days of Mr Trump’s presidency, immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) arrested more than 41,000 people, an increase of 37.6 per cent over the previous year. ICE’s rise in arrests across the country, along with other immigration policies by the trump administration, has led to a marked decline in the number of street vendors in New York City and a drop in street vendors.
“I remember (trump was President position) of the first few months, queen street no one, not a lot of walk in customers as a supplier or supplier,” street vendor director Sean Basinski said. The project is a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation and advocacy for street vendors in the city.
There are no statistics on the economic impact of the trump administration’s immigration policies on street vendors, many of them undocumented immigrants. But selling food and other items on the street is common in Jackson heights, corona and the queens borough of Jamaica, and some suppliers say they have lost a significant portion of their income.
Fresh Fried steaks are stacked on a tray to be emptied before the supplier can pick it up.
RPRhael Bongiorno for NPR
“There was a time when there was a lot of talk about ICE on Roosevelt avenue,” Mr. Bassinski said. “there was an ICE van in the subway. “I don’t think it’s true, but people think they’re going to be picked up.
Last year was a turning point for Hernanchurreria. He finally got enough money to use bigger equipment and industrial equipment and an extra baker. But now that his income has halved, he has returned to the streets to sell churros. On Sunday, he and his wife drove to the suburbs of westchester and Pennsylvania and sold his tarts to churches with large latino churches.
Hernandez came to New York from Ecuador 17 years ago. A few weeks after his arrival, he found a job in the car wash and earned $30 a day. He remembered that he had never taken so much money before.
But one night he decided to become a churro supplier after seeing a young churro seller quickly exchange money at a railway station. When he realized that he could use more money to provide churro baker for other suppliers, Hernan persuaded a Mexican baker to teach him the craft. Then he started building a supplier network to buy his churros.
In queens, such as Jackson heights and corona, more than 57 percent of the population is foreign-born, more than 100 languages, and street traffic provides a livelihood for many immigrants. But for some, it’s getting harder.
On a warm autumn afternoon, Roosevelt avenue of women in a row, sold around the tortillas grilled pork shoulder meat, kebabs on aluminum grills, hovering in the shopping cart, there are $1 in corn rice dumplings in the beverage refrigerators to keep warm.
Glady, a street vendor who sells lamb kebabs, says her income has halved this year. Even on this beautiful day, her clients are few.
“I didn’t even make $50,” she said in Spanish, when she heated the grill. “The change of the President makes people want to spend money, because one day they may arrest us and many of our friends are gone.
One seller, Ruth, who works across the street from Glady street, waits for a familiar face, slicing her chicharron (pork crispy), braised pork and beef into thin slices and putting them on a hot flat grill. She believes that customers will not buy because they are afraid to be seen and save money when they or family members are deported.
“A lot of people don’t like I used to, because they don’t want to risk, to avoid the cost of a lot of people, because if they encounter something, at least they had some savings,” Ruth in Spanish. “Before we had the new President, they had no such freedom.”
New York City has an estimated 20,000 vendors. In 1981, the city’s street vendors allowed its number of problems to be 5,000. That means about 80% of suppliers cannot legally run their food business.
Matthew Shapiro, a senior lawyer for street vendors, says many immigrants can’t find traditional jobs. Street vending is an easy job that allows them to make a living. But unlicensed suppliers are at risk of being rejected or arrested by local law enforcement agencies. In the current political environment, the risk of unlicensed sellers is magnified.
Shapiro says any criminal justice system that contacts undocumented immigrants is widely seen as raising the possibility of ICE detention and deportation.
“It puts them at greater risk because of the strong immigration stance that our federal government has put in place,” Shapiro said. “So if they sell and break the law, that could lead to higher immigration consequences.”
Some immigration lawyers, for example, have expressed concern that the number of people who have arrested ICE in court has increased. According to the immigration defense program, the arrests in New York increased by 900 percent in 2017.
While some vendors continue to struggle to make a living on the streets, other suppliers are looking for new, less obvious jobs. A supplier, Julia used to sell lunch from a street shopping cart without a permit. But over the past few years, the mother of three has been selling food to reduce the risk of arrest or detention.
“If I continue to go to court [to pay automatic ticket sales without a permit], they can deport me,” Julia said in Spanish.
Like other street vendors, Julia’s income has fallen this year.
Julia was born and raised in el Salvador. Fifteen years ago, she settled in a large immigrant town in Nassau county, long island. She began to sell food nearby to support her family.
Then one night, ICE knocked at two o ‘clock in the morning and arrested her mate. Agents enter their bedroom and wake them up. At the time, Julia was pregnant. After her child’s father was evicted, she did not know how she would support her family.
“When I see ICE, you can imagine how I feel,” she said. “I’m paralyzed.”
In the evening, a light bulb is attached to the extension cord to light the corn (elote) and polenta on Julia’s driveway (cinnamon, sugar and milk are poured into a corn drink). When the curious neighbor stopped for a hot drink, she poured the steam gourd into the foam cup, with corn mayonnaise, crisp white cheese and chili sauce.
Although Julia earns $500 a week from street vendors, she is now willing to pay $100 to sell out of her garage. Her new method avoids the fine she once received, she says, and now she sleeps peacefully, and she and her daughter are safe.
“Who can imagine New York City without street vendors?” “Asked basinski. “If we don’t have a street as a small business, we’re not going to grow and grow, and that will ultimately affect the economy of New York City.”
A 2012 study by the institute of justice found that vendors provided 17,960 jobs, $71.2 million in taxes and $193.2 million in wages for the city’s economy.
Hernan, who dreamed of expanding his churros business across the country, has shelved his plans. If more suppliers stop selling churros, he fears that next year will be his last in churreria. “I’m going to have to close my business and go back and sell churros,” he said. “Next year will be the biggest harvest.”