MIAMI (AP) - Thousands of illegal immigrants stayed home this week amid rumors of immigration roundups that federal officials say were unfounded, leaving some industries scrambling for workers. Len Mills, executive vice president of Associated General Contractors of South Florida, estimated at least 50 percent of workers on construction jobs in the region had not shown up for work. "This is costing millions of dollars a day, and I don't know who is going to pay for it," he said. Rumors of random sweeps were rampant from coast to coast Friday, prompting many immigrants to stay home from work, take their children out of school and avoid church. Their absences added to immigrants' fears, as some thought their friends and co-workers had been arrested. (AP) Jose Alcerro, center, talks to organizers at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform... Full Image Mills said he believed even some legal workers were afraid. "Everybody's edgy," said Chris Ruske, owner of a southern New Jersey nursery. "There's an awful lot of rhetoric, and you wonder what's true. You wonder if the immigration Gestapo are coming to get you." Construction and agriculture were among the industries most affected. Katie A. Edwards, executive director of Florida's Dade County Farm Bureau, said nearly a third of farmworkers did not come to the fields this week. Mari Ramos, a Peruvian nanny whose tourist visa ran out in 2003, listened when friends warned her not to take public transportation or risk arrest. "That's when I became nervous. I stopped going to my night job," the 36-year-old Miami woman said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency has received hundreds of calls about immigration raids in recent days. Such rumors are typical after a raid like the one last week in which more than 1,000 employees of pallet manufacturer IFCO were arrested at more than 40 company sites nationwide, he said. "However, we don't conduct random sweeps," he said. "All our arrests are the result of investigations, evidence and intelligence." ICE officials acknowledged they have stepped up arrests under their "Operation Phoenix," an existing program to find and deport fugitive illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. Many wondered whether the rumors would deter people from national immigration protests planned for Monday. The National Immigration Law Center called on organizations nationwide to sign a petition urging ICE to assure the public it won't make any immigration arrests during the protests. The agency said its policy is not to discuss potential operations. "ICE will continue to operate as it does every day of the year," Boyd said. The rumors affected a wide variety of businesses. In New Jersey and New York, day-laborer gathering sites drew only a trickle of workers. "It is the ugliest of rumors because it has intimidated people who are already afraid. They are living in the shadows of society, wondering who is going to knock on the door," said the Rev. Allan Ramirez, pastor of the Brookville Dutch Reform Church in Long Island, N.Y. Elias Bermudez, an activist and talk show host for a Spanish-language radio station in Phoenix, said many believe they are being punished for participating in recent protests in favor of legalizing the status of many illegal immigrants. In the rural town of Homestead, Fla., more than a dozen parents lined up early to take their kids out of Redondo Elementary School on Wednesday for fear of a raid, said activist Jonathan Fried, who heads the nonprofit "We Count!" "It's caused tremendous fear in our community, like I've never seen before," Fried said. On Friday, ICE announced the arrests of 106 illegal immigrant fugitives and 19 immigration status violators throughout the Midwest over the last 10 days. Of those, 46 had criminal records, according to the department. Earlier this week, ICE announced the arrest of 183 fugitives in Florida alone. The American Immigration Lawyers Association said Friday it believes some of the concerns may have been fueled by confusion over a widespread fugitive roundup by the U.S. Marshals Service. That roundup lead to more than 9,000 arrests of people wanted for a number of crimes, and ICE assisted in the effort but it said most of those detained were U.S. citizens. ---_ Associated Press Writers Suzette Laboy in Miami, Bonnie Pfister in New Jersey, Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix and Adam Geller and Pat Milton in New York contributed to this report.