Fake flyers claiming to be from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently appeared overnight in the Waterfront neighborhood of Southwest, Washington D.C. This caused a stir among residents and raised the ire of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Designed as a phony “Sanctuary City Neighborhood Public Notice,” the leaflets, found taped to light posts and traffic signs, advised residents that it was a crime to “conceal, harbor, or shield from detection” an “illegal alien.” The flyer also provided a Customs and Border Protection hotline number.

On June 2, fake ICE flyers (left) were posted around Southeast D.C., prompting Mayor Muriel Bowser to request that residents remove the flyers (right). (Photos by Shantella Sherman)

Travis Hester, retired civil servant and resident of the Town Square Tower Condominiums, told the AFRO he was appalled by the flyers, taped just feet from the entrance to his building on June 2 – and even more incensed to find the notices to be a hoax.

“It is this wave of insecure and degenerate newcomers to the city that believe somehow posting up such notices, or even hanging nooses, is a game. It is anything but comical,” Hester, told the AFRO. “There is an active attempt to intimidate Black and Brown people reminiscent of some southern and mid-western towns. There needs to be an official answer to these incidents before Black and Brown people start to take things into their own hands.”

Hester was also referring to the fact that three nooses were found in D.C. during the week of May 28, including at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell denied responsibility for the flyers in a statement that read: “The immigration enforcement notices appearing across Washington D.C. were not issued or sanctioned by U.S. Immigration and Customs. Just like false reports of immigration checkpoints or random sweeps, notices like these are dangerous and irresponsible. Any person who actively incites panic or fear of law enforcement is doing a disservice to the community, endangering public safety and the very people they claim to support and represent.”

Isabelle Salvadore, a graduate student who recently moved just south of the L’Enfant Plaza from Texas, said the flyers she saw while walking her dogs brought back terrible memories of racist encounters she endured in Texas. Engaged to a dark-skinned Panamanian, Salvadore said she was terrorized in her Terrell, Texas community for being both non-White and in an interracial relationship.

“There were notes left on our car and a few on my apartment door calling me a N—- lover, and saying INS was going to get me or I should die,” Salvadore told the AFRO. “I was born in Los Angeles, I am an American citizen, but these people are angry and looking to hurt people. This is a dangerous climate I thought we had left behind.”

Bowser responded to the posters with a tweet calling for people to tear down the flyers. “Clearly the flyer is meant to scare and divide our residents,” she said. “We won’t stand for it.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton called on the FBI to investigate the flyers, saying in a statement: “Whoever created and posted these fliers did so in violation of several federal laws. We believe a federal investigation to determine who is responsible is fully warranted.”

D.C. has about 70,000 immigrants, and roughly 25,000 are undocumented, according to officials. Immigration arrests by ICE nationwide increased by 32.6 percent in the first few weeks of the Trump administration compared to the previous year.