32 arrested at ICE offices, say immigration reform can't wait


CHICAGO - Saying comprehensive immigration reform could wait no longer, 32 labor, religious, and community leaders and an elected official were arrested after blocking Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices May 25. The civil disobedience was part of a national week of action aimed getting stalled legislation moving in Congress.

The protesters, who carried sacks of money symbolizing the contributions of immigrants to the US economy, also condemned the anti-immigration law SB 1070 passed in Arizona and threats by ICE to step up immigration enforcement in Illinois.

"We can't fix this economy as long as 12 million workers are forced to live in the shadows, without any rights and subject to exploitation," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union.  "All workers have the same rights and responsibilities and we can only get that through comprehensive immigration reform."

Medina blasted Republicans in the US Senate for holding up immigration reform and said they shouldn't expect any votes from the immigrant community in November, "not even for dog catcher."

Many of those being arrested expressed dismay over the policy of deportations of undocumented workers being carried out by the Obama Administration. If the current rate of deportations keeps up, over 400,000 people will be deported this year, more than under the Bush administration.

While the Obama administration maintains Homeland Security and ICE are targeting unscrupulous employers and those who have committed crimes, trade union leaders are saying otherwise.

Keith Kelleher is president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, which represents workers in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and childcare. He said many SEIU members were being caught up in the sweeps and background checks.

"There needs to be comprehensive immigration reform and we can't wait any longer. That's why I'm getting arrested. We need these deportations to stop. Everyday 1,100 families are broken up," said Kelleher. He and others termed the federal government's immigration strategy a failure.

"The families in my district who are being ripped apart by old and broken laws can't wait," said Chicago Alderman George Cardenas. "The workers can't wait. Our economy can't wait. You don't throw $1.5 trillion down the drain in a recession." Cardenas was referring to the amount of money immigrant workers will add to the US economy if reform passes.

"Legality. Rules. Passports and security on the border. Those are issues. But the real issue is people looking for a better life. God made the world for everybody. Not just for you and me and the United States," said Father Bill Brennan, a 90 year-old Jesuit priest from Milwaukee who was arrested.

"It's a travesty what happened in Arizona. They're trying to divide working people and blame the downturn in the economy on immigrants when it should be blamed on Wall Street and LaSalle Street," said Richard Berg, former president of Teamsters Local 743.

Carl Rosen, western regional president of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers was arrested along with Armando Robles the president of UE Local 1110 and leader of the Republic Windows and Doors occupation in 2008. Rosen said current immigration policy of deportations was doing far more damage to the American economy than good.

"The people being arrested today are showing with their bodies the level of concern we have. No more business as usual at ICE. No more deportations," said Rosen.

Photo: Thirty-two people were arrested in Chicago on May 25  demanding immigration reform. John Bachtell/PW

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • With UE,Teamsters,organized labor,community organizations and individuals,elected officials,and clergy,all positive and logical for our U.S. traditions of freedom and fair-play,democracy and justice,we shall win this fight.
    But it aint over till its over.
    The vacillation and capitulation of the Obama administration is quite an unpleasant and shocking concern. It amounts to high hypocrisy. How can it support labor AND support its evisceration?
    Electronic and snail mail must pour into the President and Congress to expose,protest and change this high hypocrisy.
    This battle to stop these un-American witch-hunts and deportations,and start a sane,reasonable immigration policy and law must be achieved,now.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/30/2010 7:37am (5 years ago)

  • Yo Max! If you are an entrepreneur, make sure your investors are legal or you will be in trouble. Illegal investors are a burden to the company, they are a liability. For proof- look around your neighborhood.

    Posted by GuestofFriend, 05/30/2010 1:49am (5 years ago)

  • When you are an Entrepreneur, you would like that many customer
    invest in your Company, Don't you think so?
    The same for any Corporation Owner small or big!
    A country is nothing else as a large Corporation, any immigrant
    who bring money to this country as any investment
    like paying the Mortgage, the Property Taxes, Insurance etc
    to build up his/her Life has to invest more than $5000 to $850000
    depend how big he will be. So any Investor small like a Grape
    picker or even larger has no rights? Government decisions of
    allowing that in between rightness or corrupt Builder, Mortgage,
    Attorneys ore people who life in greed can take advantage of those
    who are vulnerable by law. Madoff, AIG, Wallstreet etc.. the
    variety is very long. Billions of US dollars in Miss use.
    And now to throw Illegal's out of the country is theft.
    25000000 victims (2007) of crime are in this country
    so how many citizen like you are all over the country
    are criminals ex convicts. Most Republican War keepers with greed
    to take the Money from those who are vulnerable that is
    the idea. The Republican finger pointing, who broad this
    country in a financial disaster. Instead of declaring war, with
    all spending brought the economy down and Americans who life
    undisciplined in over valuing there living standards who lost
    there homes to be responsible for their depth.

    And now take everything away from Immigrants or Aliens ? What a lovely country

    Posted by Max9010, 05/29/2010 3:15pm (6 years ago)

  • AMY McFEE:

    I am neither a democrat or repulblicn but I will vote to anyone who protects the laws of this great country and who put the citizens' will over their political survival.

    There is no need for comprehensive immigration reform. What is needed is enforcement and we will not have any illegal immigrant problems. Every citizen of any other country on earth want the American Dream. Believe me, I am an immigrant myself. Are you willing to open our borders and accommodate a billion people?

    You build upon the false idea that current immigration laws break families. Who is to be blamed in the first place? Here, I will tell you what is going on so you will understand the reality. PEDRO came here in the U.S. illegally. After so many years, after so many political and media pressures, he gained legal status. Then he wanted to petition his family from country X. It took many years for this to happen because of the requirements for intending immigrants and because each country has a quota on immigration. PEDRO and his supporters (his congressman, media, friends and neighbors) complained that the system is broken as it separates families. AFTER a few years wait, his wife YURI was able to migrate. After a few years, YURI also wanted to petition her brother and sisters. And guess what- they brand the system as unfair, racist, breaks families etc. because YURI is still a green card holder and cannot petition yet her siblings.

    Please think again the holistic implication if you legalize this 10 to 20 million immigrants.

    Again I am also an immigrant and I tell you I waited 14 years to gain my citizenship. I followed every single rule and paid every fee necessary. I went through thorough medical exams, finger printing, background and criminal checks, presented all my tax forms, I demonstrated to them that I have good moral character (no criminal record, not even a driving violation, not drug user, etc), I proved that I will not be a burden to the U.S. goverment (I've never gained any government benefits), I passed the english an civic tests, etc. ARE THOSE REQUIREMENTS BROKEN AND ARE THEY RACIST? Can you then ask the 10 million you support to follow the rules?

    Posted by Rolando Cortez, 05/29/2010 11:33am (6 years ago)

  • I am very proud of those brave Americans who not only have hearth but also understand the pain that broken families feel. Discrimination, xenophobia, hate, anti-immigrant rhetorics are like poison. Evil never won and will never win! Our country teaches others to respect human rights but it violates them every day. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed not, not next year! The problem is getting worse every day, and yet Republicans chose to ignore it and try to stop the reform! Shame on them and Democrats who oppose it as well! American was built by immigrants - legal and illegal. If the law would make sense and would be fair to those who come here, no one would break it. Also if our own employers would not cheat and take advantage of cheep laborers we would not have 10 million undocumented people in this country right now. Give those people legal status, and let them live the American dream. This is the right and moral thing to do. Stop the hate and bullying!

    Posted by Amy McFee, 05/29/2010 10:50am (6 years ago)

  • I don't understand why these people protest. Many of those being deported deserve to be deported-- absconders, criminal aliens, etc. Why stop their deportation? We don't have broken immigration laws. What we have are illegal aliens who break the law and people who are very vocal but really have no idea about the law. We don't need immigration reform. All we need is enforce what is in the book.

    I dare to ask these demonstrators-- are they familiar with the current immigration process? Are they familiar with the requirements? Are they familiar with what is required of legal immigrants and citizens? If not, then they are just hyporites needing public attention.

    Instead of demostrations, civil disobedience, and boycotts, why not channel your efforts into educating the offenders about the legal immigration process. Why not educate them about good behaviour so that they will not be deported. Even if there is an amnesty (I honestly hope there is none), a lot of illegals will still not qualify because of crimes committed, medical conditions (including alcoholism, drug abuse, etc), public burdens, etc. There is no way to legalize all 12 millions, unless you pardon some criminals and you are willing to risk your neighborhood.

    Posted by myname, 05/29/2010 12:25am (6 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments