The bottom dropped out of Mike Granger's snack business almost immediately after the Mexican consul general in Dallas warned people to avoid this sprawling suburb.
"I'm picking up stales," Granger said last week as he plucked Bimbo snack cakes aimed at Hispanic customers from the shelves of a convenience store in the less affluent southern part of town. "My customers have disappeared."
Since late last month, illegal immigrants have retreated into the shadows and Hispanic activists have organized protests over an Irving program that checks the immigration status of everyone arrested by city police.
From September 2006 through last week, 1,638 people have been turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, city officials said.
Complaints about the initiative began building over the summer, when arrests picked up to about 300 a month.
Opposition boiled over last month after police arrested more than a dozen men who were barbecuing outside their apartment. They were jailed on misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and turned over to federal custody when it was shown they were in the country illegally.
Latino leaders say they initially supported the city's 24/7 Criminal Alien Program as an alternative to more drastic approaches being advocated by anti-illegal immigration activists in the city.
"When they talked about deporting criminals, we didn't think they meant mothers taking their children to school," said the Rev. Ismael Castro, pastor of the House of God Church. "Nobody realized it was going to hurt a lot of innocent people."
Castro, an El Salvador native who sneaked into the U.S. with his family at age 12 and received amnesty in 1986, said fear that they are being targeted by city police for arrest and deportation has spread among Latinos in Irving.
Eduardo Rea, spokesman for the Mexican consul general in Dallas, said Mexicans arrested in Irving and their families have complained that police have stopped people on the street and in vehicles to ask them about their immigration status.
"We think that is racial profiling," Rea said. "If you're Anglo, you are not going to be asked for your immigration status."
Rea said Mexican Consul Enrique Hubbard Urrea met with Irving officials in late July.
"We had a meeting in which we told them about the complaints we were getting," he said. "In two months, nothing has happened so we have issued a recommendation that people don't go to Irving."
By 23 or 24, we're talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I'm going to have--fire, police, and other services--depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.