Dozens of people gathered outside Fiesta Mexico in Nicholasville on Wednesday night to show support for Hispanic residents one day after a rumored U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation at the restaurant.
Some Hispanic residents were afraid to leave their homes Tuesday amid talk of an I.C.E. “raid,” but Lexington attorney Wael M. Ahmad said the operation Tuesday was intended to target one person thought to be employed by Fiesta Mexico.
As while immigration officers tried to find the person at Fiesta Mexico, they came across five undocumented people and detained them, Ahmad said. In the confusion, two other Mexican restaurants in Nicholasville that would normally be open were closed Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, the people who gathered outside the restaurant to show support for those detained held signs, chanted and prayed.
This is an outrage, they came in here and they took hardworking people who are working hard to support their families.
Rebekah Nutter, speaking at a rally Wednesday night in Nicholasville
Marcela Meza, who has lived in Nicholasville for 20 years, said she knows one of the women detained. She said the woman went to Bible study with her every week to church with her husband every Sunday.
“When we found out she was taken, our hearts were broken,” Meza said. “They are really, really good people, they’ve never done nothing wrong, they just work all the time and help us in any way we need it. We can’t believe it.”
Meza said there’s only one real way people can help those being affected by the immigration operations in the area.
“Just show love, just show support, that’s what really matters,” Meza said.
Meza was surprised how many people showed up to do just that Wednesday night.
“I didn’t know this many people would pray together here,” Meza said. “I thought it might be just a few people. We’re happy to see all the support from this community.”
Rebekah Nutter, a Wilmore resident who owns a business across the street from Fiesta Mexico, showed up to support her neighbors.
“People who live in this community are part of this community. It doesn’t matter if they’re white or black or Latino or Asian; they’re part of Nicholasville,” Nutter said. “This is an outrage. They came in here and they took hardworking people who are working hard to support their families.”
Undocumented immigrants often take jobs that American citizens don’t want, Nutter said.
“All of the immigrants I know are very hardworking, they’re law abiding and they pay their taxes, because they’re grateful for the opportunity to be in this country,” Nutter said. “They’re being treated like garbage.”
She said the turnout at the rally Wednesday night showed how tight-knit the community is.
“This shows people in Nicholasville have their hearts in the right place, we have our brains in the right place, too,” Nutter said.
Kristen Estes, who helped coordinate the event Wednesday night, said the gathering was not a protest.
“This gathering isn’t about protesting what we all know is inevitable,” Estes said. “It is to show our support for our Hispanic friends and neighbors that are largely a part of our community. We work with them, our kids go to school and play sports with their kids, and we sympathize with their situation.”