Chicago-area immigration advocacy groups gathered Monday to announce that they’re working together to prepare for mass deportations promised by President Donald Trump.
Six organizations — Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, West Suburban Action Project, Organized Communities Against Deportations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago and National Immigrant Justice Center — held Monday’s press conference with elected officials.
“The policies and tactics of this administration are despicable. But we have to remember they are not new,” said Mony Ruiz-Velazco, executive director of the West Suburban Action Project. “Our immigrant communities have been under attack for many years and although this administration has taken this to new low we are prepared and know exactly what we need to do to protect our communities.”
State and local elected officials also vowed to help immigrants.
On Friday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed three bills into law that limit information sharing with immigration enforcement officials, ban private detention centers and establish state aid for higher education.
The Keep Illinois Families Together Act limits partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and immigration officials through the national program known as 287(g).
State Rep. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, sponsored one of those bills. Villanueva stressed the importance of having a grassroot approach in Illinois to protect immigrants.
“We saw this coming and we’re here living it. Donald Trump and his administration that’s selling this white supremacist agenda of hate and fear know something we all know: that the power isn’t with him and his cronies, that the power is here with us,” she said.
Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, said that while the city has a sanctuary ordinance that limits immigration enforcement in the city, there are loopholes.
“In the city of Chicago, right now city code still says that the Chicago Police Department can work with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to deport individuals,” he said. “And that is wrong because no one should be afraid to call 911.”
Ramirez-Rosa said he and other members of the city council are working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to close those loopholes.
Felipe Diosdado, an immigrant from Mexico with a temporary work permit, stood next to dozens of advocates and politicians during Monday’s press conference. While his family is afraid of possible immigration raids, Diosdado stood proud and said he’s ready to fight to stay in Chicago and help others do the same.
“Trump is still tweeting to tear apart our families and communities,” said Diosdado, a member of SEIU and Organized Communities Against Deportations. “Using children and families as a bargaining chip to fulfill a misguided campaign promise to score political points is not who we are as a country.”
Diosdado is working to educate immigrants about their rights during encounters with immigration agents. He said in light of the threat of mass deportations, his family has been extremely careful.
Last week, his 16-year-old son refused to open the door to a visitor out of fear that it could be immigration officials. The teenager called his dad from the bathroom. The visitor turned out to be the landlord.
Advocates said this is a reality that thousands of immigrant families are facing.
Immigration advocates say they will continue hosting “Know your rights” workshops.
They are also advertising a family support hotline, 855-435-7693, which can be used by immigrants facing deportation and in need of resources. It can also be used to report unconfirmed raids, information that would be investigated and confirmed by staff and volunteers.
María Inés Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.