CHICAGO — Activists, community residents and laborers gathered on the corner of Milwaukee and Belmont in the heavily Latino neighborhood of West Avondale August 9 to denounce the recent increase in ICE raids taking place on the north west side of the city. Government agents had raided a neighborhood location where immigrant workers gather on Friday August 5 at around noon, forcing a group of laborers to to submit to illegal searches and mobile fingerprint scanners.
Aristides Banegas was one of the laborers who came face to face with ICE agents that day. He recalled details of the incident. He said that in the 23 years he’s been living in the U.S., the last couple of years have exposed the type of energy and effort being directed at targeting immigrant communities. [Ed. note: Mr. Banegas’ remarks are translated from Spanish.] “I came to this country for a better life and for change, and not to be mistreated.” He stated that Friday around noon a blue Ford Explorer pulled up to the Shell gas station parking lot where day laborers and other subcontractors normally station themselves to be recruited for jobs. Banegas said several men jumped out of the vehicle and shouted at the laborers not to move. He said one of the men grabbed Banegas by the arm and demanded that he show them his papers. While Banegas was able to provide the agents with his state ID, ICE ended up detaining 3 of his peers. One was later released, but the other two remain in detention as of this writing.(story continues after video)
This form of racial profiling in Latino and immigrant communities is not only a violation of civil rights, but is an example of the racism that drives this country’s immigration policies. For years, anti-immigration legislation, like Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law, has provided ‘loopholes’ for government agents to ask local police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is “reasonable suspicion.” Many have argued that SB1070 and similar laws set a dangerous precedent for racial profiling of brown and black individuals across the nation.
On a local level, immigrants’ rights groups such as Organized Communities Against Deportations and Not One More have been outspoken about the injustices that plague Chicago’s communities. In response to the recent raids in Chicago, they have taken several steps to challenge the legality of ICE orders. They have filed an official request and are demanding an investigation of the civil rights violations that are occurring in various immigrant- heavy neighborhoods around the city. The groups also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that may also help expose whether local police played any role in providing information to help execute last Friday’s raid.
Alderman Carlos Rosa, of the 35th ward, was present at the rally representing the Logan Square neighborhood. He told People’s World that he came out to show his support of undocumented communities and condemned the racial profiling of ICE practices. “Isn’t it funny,” he said, “that these searches don’t occur downtown to men in business suits?” Rosa emphasized the need to pass ordinances that strengthen the city’s sanctuary policy. A sanctuary city is one with policies designed to not prosecute people solely for being an undocumented immigrant. Despite Chicago being on the list, it seems that federal agents have found other means of systematically targeting and imprisoning undocumented workers. It is estimated that in the last several years the Obama administration has invested 18 billion dollars on immigration enforcement, an amount that Rosa says could have gone to better use. “[This is money] that could have gone to schools, to healthcare – but instead it went to destroying working families.”
While the legal paperwork is being processed to get the detainees released, community members and allies continue to demand transparency and accountability. “We want to send a strong message to ICE- you are not welcome here,” said Rosa. “This is a war on working people and we won’t stand for it.”
Photo: Michelle Zacarias/PW
Video: Earchiel Johnson/PW