Toledo Diocese Prepares Response after Immigration Raids Break up Families in Ohio

“Traumatized” is how Veronica Isabel Dahlberg described two small Ohio communities in the Diocese of Toledo hard hit after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on June 5 at a Sandusky flower nursery. She described the experience of one teenage girl who spent hours zip-tied by ICE officers until she could prove her American citizenship, returning home after her ordeal to find that all of her friends and neighbors were gone. Her neighbors in a farmworker community were under detention, in hiding or in flight from ICE, she explained.

Ms. Dahlberg is the founder and executive director of Hola, a Northeast Ohio community organization. She said the last few days have been hectic for her small Latino advocacy group as its members seek to discover the status and whereabouts of people arrested at the flower nursery and the 200 or so children she believes have been left behind by their parents’ arrests.

The ICE raids at two Corso’s Flower and Garden Center locations provoked a panicked exodus from the Ohio towns of Norwalk and Willard as undocumented workers who had not been caught gathered what possessions they could, pulled their children from school and fled. “These trailer park communities where they had been living are just ghost towns now,” Ms. Dahlberg said. It has been difficult, she added, to render assistance when so many people had “hunkered down” or gone into hiding in the aftermath of the ICE actions.

Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez said he felt a deep sadness in contemplating the circumstances of the raid and the people swept up in it. “What are these children going to do?” he asked. “These individuals did not even have a chance to get their things in order.”

A spokesperson for Catholic Charities in Toledo said the situation on the ground on June 7 was “confused,” but she anticipates that the diocese will reach out with legal and other assistance to those detained in Sandusky and their families.

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