A Weekend Of High Alert Passes As Immigrants Remain Vigilant
Despite promises of mass raids by President Donald Trump beginning Sunday, most Chicago neighborhoods remained quiet this weekend, with little evidence of significant activity by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“What we’ve seen so far is very little activity in the city of Chicago,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfood said Monday morning on the NPR program 1A. “There’s been a lot of rumors, and we’ve been chasing them down but so far very little in the way of substantiation and nothing where we’ve been able to say somebody has been arrested and put into the deportation portal.”
The New York Times reported that agents over the weekend arrested a mother and two daughters, but they were “immediately released under supervision.” One person also reported to a family help hotline an arrest apparently by ICE agents at a CTA station.
In a statement, ICE officials in Chicago said the agency does not “offer specific details related to enforcement operations.”
Despite that, Chicago immigrants and activists remained vigilant on Monday. Activists on the far Southeast Side planned to canvass 10th Ward businesses to pass out flyers to residents and businesses informing them of their rights if confronted by a federal immigration agents.
In total, ICE is expected to target about 2,000 immigrants nationwide who have deportation orders. It is difficult to verify how many people have been arrested and whether this targeted enforcement action will continue this week.
This comes after repeated Trump’s tweets threatening mass deportations over the last month, leaving many immigrants frightened — but also prepared.
“As a community we’ve been doing our best to come together and to unite,” said Ana Guajardo, executive director of United Workers’ Center in Chicago. “It’s important that we continue to educate ourselves on the rights that we have and keep pushing back.”
Communities on patrol, in hiding
Over the weekend, immigration advocates staged protests, organized rapid-response teams and patrolled neighborhoods around the city.
Dozens organized bike and foot brigades to monitor potential raids and provide information to immigrants in Chicago’s Albany Park, Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. Other advocates drove around Sunday night on Chicago’s Southwest Side and in suburban Cicero looking for immigration agents.
A family support hotline run by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, in collaboration with many other local organizations, said it received 25 phone calls this weekend, according to Rey Wences with Organized Communities Against Deportations. One caller reported a man being arrested apparently by ICE agents at a CTA Red Line station on Chicago’s North Side who was later released. Immigration officials have not confirmed that arrest.
While the targeted enforcement wasn’t as big as expected, many undocumented immigrants stayed home from work, some moved temporarily and others avoided going out in public.
“We had a bunch of community events this weekend, but people aren’t coming out,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, who represents the 10th Ward on the Southeast Side. “It’s a mental strain. People shouldn’t have to live in fear.”
The Rev. Jose Landaverde with Faith, Life and Hope Mission on Chicago’s Southwest Side said he saw federal agents looking for immigrants Saturday night. He said he saw agents in the building where he lives.
Landaverde said he helped at least 10 families relocate before Sunday.
WBEZ interviewed a Chicago family in hiding on Sunday. The 47-year-old undocumented father of six was arrested in a workplace raid in 2012. He has a removal order but had been able to stay in the country because of former President Barack Obama’s law enforcement priority status policy. In 2011, the head of Immigration Customs Enforcement issued an enforcement directive giving agents and prosecutors discretion on who to deport.
The family contemplated moving before the raids but decided to stay home. They installed a surveillance camera to see who knocked on their door.
“I’m not harming my community,” the father said in Spanish. He asked not to be identified. “I’m not a gang member. I dedicate my life to my family and work.”
His family sat close to him. His wife teared up while his three children — ages 17, 15 and 10, — closely listened to him.
His 15-year-old daughter is constantly watching the news and said she feels afraid.
“When we’re looking at the news, [I was] just like being worried. Like it can happen any time,” she said.
She was 8 years old when her father was detained my immigration agents. She said she’s scared it will happen again.
Her brother, the youngest, is shy. He’s been terrified since he started hearing about mass deportations.
“I’m afraid ‘cause he’s my dad,” the boy said as he cried. “He did everything for us. He took care of us.”
He couldn’t stop crying until his grandmother hugged him and asked not to talk about deportations anymore.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.
Michael Puente is a general assignment reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @MikePuenteNews.