"Ni las moscas están [Not even the fleas are here]." That's how one shopkeeper at the Tropicana Flea Market in Miami's Allapattah neighborhood described the usually bustling place on Sunday.
Business owners attributed the unusually quiet weekend to the warning of raids by immigration agents in South Florida and around the country.
"People are clearly hiding. If you look around, it's the people who are working are basically the only people here. But the majority of our clients are immigrants. Some with papers, others with no papers, but they are all scared," said Yohanna Gomez, a Honduran immigrant who runs a Central American stall in the market.
Gomez said she talked with her attorney before coming to work and was told not to worry, since she has legal status and a clean record.
"Up until now, it seems like [ICE] isn't bothering with people like me," she said.
President Donald Trump announced last Friday that the ICE raids he said had been postponed two weeks ago would start on Sunday, July 14, in 10 cities around the country, including Miami, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston and Los Angeles. New Orleans was on the original list of cities but operations there were suspended due to the inclement weather brought by Tropical Storm Barry.
"It starts on Sunday, and they're going to take people out, and they're going to bring them back to their countries, or they're going to take criminals out — put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from," Trump said during a press conference outside the White House.
Immigration sources have indicated that raids could last for days and they are targeting individuals with removal orders. According to Acting Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Kevin Cuccinelli, that's approximately 1 million people in the country.
Margot Perez is a Costa Rican immigrant who runs a clothing and fabric shop with her Cuban husband at the Tropicana Flea Market. She pays around $250 a week for her space in the market.
"The situation is critical. Everything is empty. Cafeterias, businesses, everything, because supposedly deportations would start today," said Perez. "Last week was good compared to this one, but the week before it was like this — bad."
Two weeks ago President Donald Trump warned of massive immigration raids in an effort to deport more than a million people. He later said that he called it off at the last minute.
"I think that mostly this is smoke and mirrors. Una cortina de humo," said Gomez. "Trump is putting psychological pressure on the people on the outside so they don't come to the U.S., and also to people here — that we be careful and try to legalize ourselves."
At an open-air Mexican restaurant called “Las Reynas #3” at the Lake Worth Swap Shop, it was a lively Sunday afternoon. A mix of Tejana singer Selena’s songs was blasting through speakers, women were dancing and men were drinking Modelo beer from six-bottle buckets.
And although diners were scarfing down Al Pastor and Carne Asada tacos, and clapping and singing along to the music, vendors and waiters say the rest of the market was quieter than usual.
Margarita Palacios, 46, said she’s been selling hats, glasses and other Chinese products from her stall at the swap shop for 13 years. Today, she said, was quieter than usual – fewer vendors than the same time a month ago, and all the foot traffic seemed to be from other sellers, not customers.
“Por ejemplo, un mes antes en esta hora había mucha gente. Hoy lo pueden ver ustedes – casi no hay nadie [For example, one month ago at this hour there was a lot of people. Today you can see for yourselves - there's barely anybody],” she said. “ Y creo que los que andan caminando son los mismos vendedores [And I think that those people you see walking around are the vendors].”
Some said July can be a slower month anyway, but most pointed to fears over rumored immigration raids as the reason more people stayed home on Sunday.
One woman working in the Lake Worth Swap Shop’s office pulled out a text message that had been sent around the community, warning people not to buy anything and to stay home.
“Manténte en tu casa. Unidos podemos demostrar la falta que le hacemos a este país,” it read. “Stay at home. Together we can show this country how much they need us.”