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Immigration Wed Apr 28 2010
A group of 24 Chicago religious and community leaders were arrested as they blocked a bus carrying immigrants on their way to deportation from a detention center in Broadview this morning.
A crowd of about 150 held a vigil near the center's entrance that began last night. Labor, community, and religious groups repeatedly denounced the deportations carried out behind them, Arizona's tough new immigration bill SB 1070, and what they described as President Obama's inaction on immigration reform.
Father Jose Landaverde, a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Church in Little Village, made activists' intentions clear.
"We are tired of the promises" from politicians, he stated. Referring to President Obama's assumed run for a second term, he said, "If there is no legalization, there will be no reelection."
photos by Isaac Silver
Stephen Smith of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, stated his case plainly.
"We've set a deadline of May 1st for the President and the Senate. We want a stop to the deportations and a moratorium on raids by May 1st. We want to show them what happens if our deadline is not met."
Like most speakers at the event, Smith said raids and deportations tear families apart.
"I'm here because every night I get to go home to my wife," Smith said. "I never have to wonder whether she's going to be there or not. I don't want anyone else to ever have to wonder if their husband or wife or cousin or child is going to be there when they get home.
"We're here to stop the destruction of families."
Many protesters wore shirts that read "undocumented and unafraid."
As a van with immigrants being deported left the center around 7:30 A.M., the group of 24 sat down to block its departure.
While sitting in the street facing the van, Margarita Klein, a Chicago resident and member of Workers United, wore a picture of a husband, wife, and children around her neck. The father, she explained, had been deported, and his wife and children were left alone in the U.S.
"We are sick and tired of our families being separated," she said. "We've had enough. We want immigration reform now."
The activists chanted, "Illinois is not Arizona!" and "No deportations today!" as supporters looked on and police led them to squad cars.
Participants repeatedly stressed their anger with the Arizona bill, calling it overtly racist. Between today's civil disobedience and the progressive reform introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the actions and legislature coming out of Chicago seem to be the polar opposite of SB 1070 and the sentiments behind it. As immigration reform becomes the issue for debate, it's safe to assume the country will see intense polarization as it undertakes an intensely spirited intellectual debate--perhaps like the one we saw on health care.
But if today's action is any indication, activists on the Left appear to have learned something after watching a tepidly progressive health care reform bill get shouted down as an effort to "pull the plug on grandma." Immigrant rights activists are going on the offensive, ostensibly in an effort to gain and maintain control of the debate to prevent a group like the Tea Partiers from taking it. Undocumented youth in Chicago held a "coming-out" march last month, proclaiming themselves "undocumented and unafraid;" on Saturday, immigrants and their advocates will take to the streets with unions for May Day.
Immigrants and advocates in Chicago seem to be escalating the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. We'll see if other pro (and anti) -immigrant groups around the country follow suit.