Little Village business owners report lack of customers over ICE fears

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Business owners in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago said the threat of deportation under President Donald Trump has scared customers, who are too afraid to even walk to the store.

Vicente Torres is one of the best mechanics in the Little Village neighborhood. His first auto shop grew so fast he opened a larger one in 1998.

But for the first time in over 20 years his business is not growing - profits are declining.

"My business is not collapsed. But I see the numbers! Last year and this year," he said.

Under the Trump Administration, he said his regular customers - many of whom are undocumented - are too nervous to spend money on their cars.

Rumors are spreading that ICE agents are picking people up on street corners and deporting them within days.

"People save money for expenses in case they have a deportation. That's the reality," Torres said.

A few blocks away, Mike Martinez said his once-busy salon, M. Hair Design, is now empty. Appointments are being cancelled. Walk-in customers are non-existent.

"We used to see before, there was people walking in the sidewalk, coming in," Martinez said.

At a community meeting, he and Torres asked for help to calm customers' fears. A police commander told the crowd the deportation rumors are not true.

"As far as ICE and immigration, we have none of that going on here in the 10th District that I'm aware of," said Commander Jimmy Sanchez, 10th District.

Now, in addition to fixing cars, Torres says he is on a mission to restore calm, so the Little Village economy can survive.

In the next few weeks, the Little Village Chamber of Commerce said they are revealing a plan to bring business back.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.