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While questions remain, the chilling effect of the raid is evident.“People are afraid to leave their houses,” said Alisa Maria Jones, president and CEO of La Comunidad Hispana, a nonprofit that has provided health and social services in Kennett Square since 1973.“Until this past week, I was booked six to seven weeks out for consultations with people wanting to know what their options were, trying to pursue new forms of relief, wanting to be proactive,” she said.“People are still showing up for their consultations.And it is all because of what happened shortly after dawn on Wednesday, April 26, inside a dank, cinder-block grow house lined with long beds of creamy white mushrooms. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in khaki slacks and protective vests entering the windowless room where she and a dozen other Latino immigrants labored.Priscilla Aguilar Chun's shift as a picker at South Mill’s Kaolin Farms branch in Avondale was just getting started at 7 a.m. The agents carried photographs of four men they said they were seeking.None of the targets was present, but that didn’t seem to matter, Chun said.The agents blocked the exits and interrogated the workers one by one.
South Mill did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
“Nobody knew anything about the four men the agents said they were looking for,” she said.
“Which makes it seem more like a ruse than anything else.” While a law office might ordinarily expect more inquiries when anxieties are running high, she said, this raid seems to have produced an opposite effect.
Art Read, a longtime attorney with Friends of Farmworkers, a Pennsylvania advocacy center for migrant workers, said the incident appeared to be the first big workplace raid in mushroom country since the 1990s -- and a sign of the new priorities ordered in January by President Trump, who wants anyone found to be living here unlawfully to be jailed and ultimately removed.
The Chester County hills around Kennett Square are the heart of a 0 million mushroom industry that has provided jobs for successive waves of immigrants -- Quakers, Irish, Italians, Central Americans.Not far from the shop, at the legal offices of Sweet & Paciorek, lawyer Lindsey Sweet said she has picked up two new clients from among the dozen men arrested.