Early in the morning, rumors started flying that the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Office made rounds in Belvidere and Rockford. The phone was ringing off the hook at any agency that may have something to do with immigration.
La Voz Latina got hundreds of calls.
La Voz Latina Director Patricia Gomez says, "We’ve got calls that say that neighbors disappeared or that they've heard of vans pulling up that said immigration on the side and carted people away, so people are confused and upset."
It was an especially concerning day for much of the Hispanic community trying hard to piece together this alleged deportation raid by federal agents.
Alejandro, a Rockford resident, tells 23 News, “I've heard from friends of mine that I trust saying they've seen people get pulled over. There's roadblocks on the south side of Rockford where people are being stopped and asked for ID and then being taken away."
This is the message left by Gail Montenengro with the INS office.
Montenengro says, "Last week ice did conduct a large scale criminal investigation at various locations around the country that resulted in more than 1,100 illegal aliens arrested."
She goes on to say that it's not uncommon that following such operations rumors spread. By 4 p.m. talk of a random sweep just ran ramped so many met at City Hall to debrief and rally for change. Rockford police were on hand to sort out facts.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson tells 23 News, "We followed up on all those claims and they are false."
Alejandro follows up by saying, "It's hard for us to trust anybody in authority because we've always been taken advantage of. It's hard for us to believe that anybody would be honest with us."
There was even a rumor that INS was storing all these illegal immigrants at the MetroCentre. Centre Events said no such actions took place. Hispanic residents were pretty much staked out at Rockford City Hall all night. Mayor Morrissey and Rockford aldermen addressed hundreds of people after the council meeting.
The mayor told residents to not live in fear and contrary to what many are being told Morrissey advised everyone to return to work and school. The city spoke with INS and confirmed that no raids were taking place in Rockford.
Mayor Morrissey told community members, "It is my job as mayor to provide information that avoids panic, fear, chaos. If there was an operation going on by INS I would tell you. I've got no reason not to tell you because my main job as mayor is to enable a peaceful process that avoids panic, fear, avoids chaos and terrorism that can tear our community apart."
The city and Rockford Police advise that if anyone shows up and claims they are with the Rockford Police Department or INS, call 911 or Rockford Police at 987-5800.