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False Stories About ICE Sweeps & Checkpoints Spark Fear In New York's Immigrant Communities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- President Donald Trump's tough talk on immigration is reverberating in New York's melting pot.

As CBS2's Brian Conybeare reports, false stories about widespread immigration sweeps are going viral across social media and creating a climate of fear.

It looked like a ghost town inside the Mexican restaurant run by Cesar Rodriguez along Port Richmond Avenue on Staten Island.

"It has been very slow," he said.

Rodriguez said his business is down more than 50 percent since bogus reports of widespread Immigration and Customs Enforcement checkpoints at places like subway stations started popping up on social media. One warned people they could even be stopped on the 6 train.

"Because everybody's afraid to come, everybody's afraid to walk on Port Richmond, where there's been fake news about raids," he said.

ICE has been targeting criminal, illegal aliens in New York City and around the country, but a spokesperson told CBS2, "reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible."

"There's people that are afraid to leave their homes. There's people that stopped going to work," said immigration advocate Fahd Ahmed, of Queens.

Ahmed is trying to stop the misinformation.

"A lot of people are putting up reports about suspected ICE raids online and they just proliferate and spread like wildfire," he said.

With so much confusion and fear on the streets, scam artists posing as ICE officers are targeting immigrants in Woodside, Queens, demanding cash and threatening deportation.

"First and foremost, no ICE officer, no police officer, no officer, would ever seek money in exchange for not being detained," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

The councilman said four suspects dressed like ICE agents conned $250 from a terrified immigrant.

"We don't want any immigrants in our community to be so fearful that they have to give their money, as this man did," Van Bramer said.

"They have to be more informed about what's going on around them," Rodriguez said, hoping his customers will come out of hiding.

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