Concerns about federal immigration agents in Harrisburg neighborhood

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – “Those are our brothers and sisters. The only problem is, they don't have a legal document,” said Rev. Orlando Reyes with St. Francis in Harrisburg.

People in Harrisburg say they're seeing immigration agents raid a section of the city, and now, some businesses say they're losing customers as a result.

People in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg say immigration and customs agents have been in the community stopping both undocumented and documented immigrants. A local business is noticing a drop in Hispanic customers.

The Mega Hair Salon says it serves a 'melting pot' of customers.

Recently, employees say they've seen a drop in customers and are losing a profit because of the immigration raids.

A barber there tells us it's because his customers are afraid of running into immigration officials and are either staying inside or leaving the community all together.

"If there was fifty people that came in here that were either Mexican, Ethiopian, Somalian, from Africa, well, those fifty people don't come in no more,” said Tom Gekas.

Gekas grew up in Allison Hill and has cut hair at the salon on Derry street for the past three years.

He’s been noticing a cut in his regular customers.

“If each one of them fifty people were paying twenty bucks a haircut - that's a thousand dollars you're taking away from this small business,” said Gekas.

Gekas says he sees federal immigration agents in the community and believes their presence has driven many of his customers away from Allison Hill.

"They’ll just stop and talk to groups of people and the next thing you know, there's two or three cars there, and they're just taking people away,” he said.

It's not just Gekas who notes ICE has been in the community.

“It's been an issue. Has it escalated? Absolutely,” said Gloria Vazquez Merrick.

She is the director with the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg and says she's been getting a number of calls from community members, saying either they, or someone they know, has been picked up by the federal government.

“At first, we were thinking they're coming in and doing some preliminary checking and things like that, but then it just really took off, and what we found out is that they're actually sitting, stalking neighborhoods sitting at 5 o'clock in the morning, looking for people to leave from work. In some cases, I think it's targeted, and they're looking for a particular individual, but in many instances, it's a matter of they're profiling,” explained Merrick.

Reverend Orlando Reyes with St. Francis on Market Street believes it's a problem for immigrant families.

“They don't even want to send their kids to school or go to the supermarket because they're afraid to get out of their homes,” said Rev. Reyes.

A captain with Harrisburg police said in an article with PennLive that ICE agents have been conducting raids in the neighborhood for the past few weeks and taking undocumented immigrants into custody. However, Harrisburg Police would not confirm with FOX 43 if the agents have indeed been in the community.

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