Police sawed through plastic pipes on Tuesday to pry apart seven protesters at an immigration detention center near Chicago. The protesters, all in the United States without legal permission, demanded a halt to deportations as Congress considers allowing most of the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for legal status.
President Barack Obama’s administration has increased deportations to roughly 1,100 a day, a record pace. Removals have continued as the Senate Judiciary Committee works on a sweeping immigration bill drafted by a bipartisan group that includes Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). The protesters called on Durbin to push Obama to suspend the removals.
“We’ve had over a million families separated because of deportations,” said protester Stephanie Camba, 22, a Filipina who said her parents brought her to the United States when she was 11 years old. “This bill is not enough if it’s not going to stop deportations. It should be deportations being stopped first.”
The protesters, backed by about 100 supporters, held each other using chains and locks inside three-foot segments of polyvinyl chloride tubes — civil-disobedience setups knowns as “lockboxes.” The protesters sat down in a street to block vehicles from the center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in suburban Broadview.
ICE holds immigrants awaiting deportation in the center before loading them into vans and buses that carry them to flights from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
A statement from Durbin’s office in response to the protest says the senator was “instrumental in pushing the administration” to allow many young unauthorized immigrants to apply for work papers and a deportation reprieve under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama policy initiated last year.
Durbin, the statement adds, is also working on the immigration bill as a member of the Senate panel. “The hope is that next month the full Senate will begin debate on this common-sense, compromise proposal that will provide millions of immigrants with an accountable path to citizenship,” the statement says.
After police cut through the pipes, Broadview officers arrested the protesters, charged them with disorderly conduct and released them.