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The Mechanics

Justice Wed Nov 19 2014

National Week of Action to Free Ramsea Odeh Holds Protest at Federal Plaza

#FreeRasmeaNow Protestors Gather at Federal Plaza on Wednesday Photo credit: Rasmea Odeh Defense Committee

Rasmea Yousef Odeh, 67, was convicted last Monday of immigration fraud by a jury in federal court in Detroit. Odeh, a resident of Evergreen Park and the Associate Director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago was previously convicted of involvement in fatal terrorist bombings and sentenced to life in prison in Israel in 1970. Reports later surfaced that her confession was forced after torture by the Israeli military while Odeh was in captivity.

Odeh spent 10 years in prison before being released with 78 others in prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In 1995, Odeh came to the US through Jordan in 1995, where she (according to her later federal indictment) denied that she had ever been convicted of a crime.

The results of Odeh's trial (an arrest in which she'll be detained until her sentencing, facing up to ten years in prison, deportation, and loss of her U.S. citizenship on March 15, 2015) sparked nationwide support in a number of ways, including the National Week of Action to #FreeRasmeaNow.

The Committee is taking action by writing letters to the judge and planning protests--one of which included chaining themselves to the U.S. Federal Court building in Oakland. Last Wednesday in Chicago, hundreds of supporters rallied at the Federal Plaza for the first protest in Odeh's home city since her arrest.

Hatem Abudayyeh, spokesperson for the National Rasmea Defense Committee, which includes over 50 organizations across the U.S., said, "The government's case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext."

"Rasmea's story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere," Abudayyeh continued, "Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people's movements across the world."

Becky Schultz

Labor & Worker Rights Fri May 02 2014

Chicagoans Commemorate May Day 2014


May Day demonstrators march through Chicago's Loop/ Photo by Emily Brosious

Hundreds took to Chicago's streets Thursday to commemorate May Day, or International Workers Day, the world's largest labor holiday.

Organizers with International Workers of the World (IWW) Chicago held a Black and Red Brigade Rally in Union Park, where demonstrators spoke out about the meaning of May Day and enjoyed free vegan meals served by Food Not Bombs Pilsen.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (1)

Op-Ed Mon Feb 17 2014

Undocumented in Illinois Overwhelmingly Live in Families

imgres.jpgImagine that you were born in the Chicago area. You were raised here, went to school here, and you see Chicago as your home. This is true for me, and I am guessing many readers. Then imagine that, through no fault of your own, one or both of your parents is undocumented. You are forced to live with a constant fear that one of your parents could be taken away from you at any time and your family could be wrenched apart. Then one day, your mother or father is gone with no warning--deported to a place you may have never even visited.

This might also be true for some readers; and it is precisely this everyday reality that is revealed as all too common through a report recently released by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. [Editor's note: The author of this piece is currently interning with the ICIRR.] The report, Illinois' Undocumented Immigrant Population: A Summary of Recent Research by Rob Paral and Associates, reveals the extent to which undocumented immigrants in Illinois are deeply integrated into families and communities, and thus the extent of our population that immigration reform would truly impact.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (6)

State Politics Thu Jan 31 2013

Driven to Distraction: The New Illinois Temporary Visitor DL

While Congress ponders a "pathway to citizenship" for some of the millions among us who arrived in the country under the radar, Illinois has forged ahead, sending waves of ecstasy through some constituencies and outraging others, by providing a pathway to the highway for those in the same boat. Or sedan.

Yes, for those who were under a rock or asleep, the State of Illinois last week put aside that annoying chatter about pensions and bond ratings for a while so we could concentrate on getting some documents for those who claim to lack them. Governor Quinn this week signed a bill that will allow illegal (and some legal) immigrants to get special Illinois Temporary Visitor Drivers' Licenses, although it may be a year before the Secretary of State's office figures out how to implement it. Supporters claim this will make our roads safer . Opponents fling their hands in the air (but not while driving, we hope) at the idea of "rewarding" those who are in Illinois only by virtue of their own, or someone else's violation of federal immigration law.

This site hasn't touched this hot topic since the bill signing, and so it was shoved my way like a bowl of cereal toward Little Mikey. So here's a short column about traffic -- probably mainly website traffic, since anything touching on immigration brings out sloganeers from all corners.

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Jeff Smith

Immigration Fri Jun 08 2012

Chicago New Americans Initiative

The Emanuel administration on Wednesday announced the Chicago New Americans Initiative with the intent of helping more than 10,000 people become naturalized U.S. citizens:

The Chicago New Americans initiative will bring together the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to offer assistance to thousands of eligible, law abiding, permanent residents in becoming naturalized, U.S. citizens.

Chicago has one of the largest immigrant population in the country. That the city government is taking a partnership, positive role in the immigrant community can go a long way to improving the economic and social conditions for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children who face uncertain futures given the acceleration of deportations under the Obama administration.

Ramsin Canon

Op-Ed Tue May 08 2012

Mexican Chicago: How our Families Feel the Drug War from Both Sides of the Border

By Latinos Progresando

shutterstock_29096323.jpgI met with a man who works with the Mexican community to raise money to build hospitals and schools. His job sounds charitable, but it can be tense and dangerous when he works with Mexican towns that are occupied by drug cartels. He would not talk to me about the violence he's encountered.

He was apologetic. He explained that the drug cartels had already approached him and given him two choices: If he does not speak about the drug cartels, they promised they would leave him alone to do his work. If he does speak about them, they promised they would come and "get him." He has stayed silent since.

He has stayed silent, even though he doesn't live in a Mexican city controlled by drug cartels. He actually lives in Chicago. My conversation with him took place in a restaurant in Pilsen.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

Immigration Wed Feb 08 2012

ICE Building a "Detention Facility" Just for Undocumented Persons

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has announced the construction of a facility in Crete, Illinois, about 35 miles outside the city, to detain about 750 people pending deportation. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has spoken out against the facility, which is another indicator of the federal government's continued deportation-heavy immigration policy. The facility will be run by Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison operator with over a billion dollars in revenue. Phil Kadner of the Southtown details the local opposition (and support) for the facility. The United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO), who've come in for some criticism in this space in the past, also released a statement against the building of this facility. All indicators are that it will be built, though, increasing ICE's local infrastructure, perhaps easing conflicts they've had with local law enforcement.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Op-Ed Fri Aug 26 2011

Keep Sheriff Arpaio's Hate Out of the Kendall County GOP Picnic

By Rev. C.J. Hawking

Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has been invited to the Kendall County Republican Party's annual picnic this Saturday in Yorkville as the event's keynote speaker. Arpaio has made a name for himself around the country and the world for his consistent willingness to degrade the prisoners under his watch--especially immigrants.

Rather than respect the image of God present in all people regardless of their country of origin, the sheriff has singled out immigrants as a population that is less than human, thus undeserving of basic human dignity.

By inviting Arpaio to their picnic, the Kendall County Republican Party is endorsing the dehumanization and degradation with which Sheriff Joe's name has become synonymous.

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Mechanics / Comments (5)

Justice Fri Aug 19 2011

Chicago Says No to Erroneously Named "Secure Communities" Program

Updated with comment from Governor Quinn's office

by Shelly Ruzicka

Yesterday undocumented youth in Chicago led hundreds of families, allies, and religious supporters in a large demonstration protesting the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program, or S-Comm. Hearings have recently been held across the country after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director John Morton stated that the program would be mandatory.


Not long ago, Illinois joined other states to opt-out of the voluntary program which required local police to fingerprint anyone they stopped and send that information to ICE. Shortly after Governor Quinn signed the bill opting out of S-Comm into law, Morton stated that the program would no longer be voluntary but mandatory, thereby negating the will of states to abandon the program which many say lead to racial profiling and distrust of police. Communities and county sheriffs have stated that "Secure Communities" has led to a greater disconnect between police and immigrant communities. People who witness crimes are afraid to go to police out of fear they may be questioned, fingerprinted, and deported. Women don't report domestic violence for the same reason. Workers are afraid to drive to their jobs or to pick up their children from school out of fear of being pulled over for a busted tail light or a cop who has been compelled to target "foreign" looking drivers.

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Immigration Mon Aug 01 2011

A Look Behind: The Illinois DREAM Act

Governor Quinn signed the Illinois DREAM Act into law today, creating a privately-financed fund that will offer college scholarships to undocumented immigrant students. Even though the measure doesn't affect their immigration status, it aims to provide thousands of students who don't qualify for other forms of assistance with the means to afford college tuition. This measure is the latest victory in a decade-long effort by immigrations groups to assist young people who were brought into the U.S. as minors and grew up in the country as undocumented immigrants.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (15)

Immigration Thu Jun 16 2011

Exodus: Immigration, Law and Activism

by Brian Reilly

"Look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase..." Exodus 1:9-10

Rosanna Pulido is stabbing at me with her finger. After talking about illegal immigration for almost an hour now, she is both more comfortable and more agitated. Pulido says everything with some kind of emphasis.

What is it about illegal immigration that makes someone, a latina no less, an activist? Pulido answers by singing, not just quoting, America, the Beautiful. "You know the song, America? America, America God shed His grace on thee...o.k., there is a line in that liberty in law. That's how you and I have so much freedom and liberty and prosperity."

Freedom, liberty, and prosperity are pretty much universal aspirations. They have moved people to action since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt up until the protests in Tahrir Square. America has, throughout its history, been a place where people have fled in order to live their aspirations. That history is filled with the brutal struggle over who belongs and who decides.

"You put laws down and if you don't obey them, you know what? You're going to pay for it," Pulido says. But who decides crime and punishment?

American immigration law has always been tied closely to race and ethnicity. The nation's first immigration law, the Naturalization Act of 1790, was passed only a year after the constitution and allowed for the immigration and naturalization of "free white persons" of "good moral character."

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Immigration Wed May 18 2011

Opening the Door to America

by Brian Reilly

America, since even before its birth as a nation, has been defined as a place for seekers; a home where a variety of peoples, values, and aspirations can belong. Defining citizenship is part of defining America. Rather than melting into the national identity, each group of seekers has struggled their way past gatekeepers vigilantly guarding their own vision, interests and identity.

Carving out a place and claiming the rights that come with it is a political fight between those who stand on either side of the doorway to America. Who belongs? Who gets in? Who stays out? Who decides?

"Profanely." In a word, that is how Joshua Hoyt intends to address an announcement from Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's office that services to immigrants will be cut by up to 74 percent in the proposed budget. Hoyt, as Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has a meeting with Quinn's senior staff and he intends to be direct.

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Immigration Fri Mar 11 2011

Chicago Youth Come Out as "Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic"

The idea is simple: young people getting together in front of cameras and onlookers and telling their stories.

Stories about their lives, their dreams, their fears--which all end with one phrase:

"Undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic."

All photos by Sarah Jane Rhee.

Chicago Tribune reporter Mary Schmich called them "American in every way but the paperwork"--young people born outside of this country but brought here as children. Many call themselves DREAMers, the potential beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, the proposed legislation that would provide legalization to young people brought here as children by their parents that failed in the Senate last year.

Hundreds of such youth and their supporters gathered in Daley Plaza yesterday to out themselves to the world as undocumented and to demand the chance to become full U.S. citizens.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (10)

Immigration Thu Dec 23 2010

Mechanics Contributor Yana Kunichoff Drops Some Knowledge on the DREAM Act

In the wake of the DREAM Act's recent failure in the Senate, assistant editor and occasional Mechanics contributor Yana Kunichoff sat down with the independent progressive bloggers at The Media Consortium to discuss the future of the bill and the U.S. immigration movement. Check out her comments at TMC's site or below:

Micah Uetricht

International Chicago Mon Nov 15 2010

Who Will Save Pakistan?

This article was contributed by Maham Khan

"Musharraf! Musharraf," a crowd of over 500 Chicagoans cheered to answer the question, as the former president made his entrance.

mushy5[1].JPGIt's been two years since Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of Pakistan under impeachment pressure in 2008. After a seven-year-long reign as president, his 2007 imposition of "emergency" martial law and a battle against the country's judiciary ultimately forced the leader to escape the country.

Even today, there are "fatwas" or edicts in Pakistan that claim his life.

But after a two-year hiatus in London, Musharraf has launched a campaign tour to announce that he will reenter the game of politics.

"Now is the time," Musharraf said. "The void of leadership must be filled."

Musharraf--formerly affiliated with the Pakistan Muslims League--Quaid (PML-Q) will be running under a new party--The All Pakistani Muslim League (APML).

"This is the original party of Pakistan--it is Quaid-e-Azam's party," Musharraf said, referring to the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. "Our objective is to win in 2013 for the betterment of Pakistan."

Musharraf spoke casually in a mélange of Urdu and English to a banquet hall filled mostly with Pakistanis.

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Mechanics / Comments (14)

Election 2011 Mon Sep 13 2010

Chicago's First Latino Mayor--Gutierrez' Case

Is one of Mayor Daley's legacies ending the city's explosive racial politics?

Given the concerns that the race-based "Council Wars" of the 1980s could boil over again without a strongman at the top, that seems to be a hard case to make. Something that was truly ended wouldn't loom as an existential threat. The Mayor incorporated major identity groups into his ruling coalition using a not dissimilar approach from that of Harold Washington: minority contracting rules, grants and contracts to influential community organizations, and appointments of local leaders to influential city and state boards and commissions. He kept a balance that didn't fundamentally alter Chicago's racial politics, but merely placated the actors most willing or able to intensify those politics.

If identity does come to play an important role in the coming election campaign, years of idle speculation tell us that a Latino is the best placed to win the day. The Latino population has grown significantly in the last two decades--to approximately 25% of the population, when "Hispanics of all races" are computed--while the Black population has dropped by about 10%. Given the Black-brown affinity on economic issues and the prevalence of mixed white-Latino neighborhoods, there is some circumstantial evidence for that view. The candidacies of Luis Gutierrez and Miguel Del Valle could help us walk through whether there is a strong likelihood of a Latino Mayor in 2011.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

Feature Thu Aug 19 2010

From Mortgage Broker to Prison Maestro: The Story of Mario Benitez

[Editor's note: This story was submitted by freelance writer Michael Volpe.]

mario_benitez.jpgIt was the end of January 2009 and things were looking up for Mario Benitez. His employer, Pan American Mortgage, had recently promoted him from a reverse mortgage specialist to head of the reverse mortgage department. That also meant a bump in pay that would finally end his days of living paycheck to paycheck. Since the mortgage market tanked in 2008, Benitez, like most mortgage professionals, struggled mightily with his own finances. Furthermore, he had made inroads in Chicago's Hispanic Republican community and was in the beginning stages of forming a political consulting firm dedicated to reaching the Hispanic community.

But his outward good fortune was masking an internal terror. For the last year and a half, Benitez was on the wrong end of a criminal proceeding. He had broken into his neighbor's home and stolen $130 almost twoyears prior when he was living in Florida. It was the sort of crime that would usually get a slap on the wrist had it happened in Chicago, but it happened in Brevard County Florida. He was dealing with it almost entirely alone. He didn't tell any of his co workers or friends. In fact, when he walked into the Brevard County courtroom on January 31st, 2009, he was still expecting to fly back home to Chicago at the end of the weekend. His expectations were wrong. For the next year and a half, Benitez would become a resident of some of the toughest prisons in Florida. He'd wind up in solitary confinement, in the crosshairs of a vicious gang, about to be deported, and he'd also wind up teaching mysticism to murderers, thieves and rapists. It's a journey borne out of recklessness, alcoholism and stupidity, but it's turned into a unique journey into America's underbelly.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Immigration Wed Aug 11 2010

Emboldened, Young Undocumented Chicagoans Win Victories for Immigration Reform

Despite a strong national push by immigrant rights groups for immigration reform in recent months, a bill seems unlikely before the year is over. As that reality sinks in, much of the movement has focused on fighting SB1070, the strict new immigration law in Arizona, as they ponder their next move. But the young members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, based in Chicago, aren't pontificating. They've been arrested at sit-ins across the country, including one at multiple senators' offices in Washington, D.C., late last month. Of the 21 arrested at that action, all were undocumented, and almost half were from Chicago.

The participants, along with other IYJL members, staged a high-profile demonstration in March, marching behind a banner proclaiming their bold rallying cry, "Undocumented and Unafraid." As the rally ended in Daley Plaza, eight students introduced themselves by giving their names and stating their undocumented status.

Photo by Pepe Lozano. Undocumented youth out themselves as undocumented in Daley Plaza on March 10.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (1)

Immigration Fri Jul 30 2010

SB 1070 at Work in Chicago: Stirrings of Renewed Activism

Yesterday, the half-million undocumented immigrants of Illinois had a big day.

Aldermen and activists held a morning press conference revealing the details of a new City Council resolution, and in the evening several hundred demonstrators gathered peacefully outside Cook County Jail. Both events focused on immigration reform, a defiant gesture in the face of Arizona's controversial new law that took effect yesterday. Those who don't already know about the SB 1070 debate will likely want to read up, as the Supreme Court is expected to take sides soon.

Protesters gathered around 4pm yesterday on the grassy lawn that divides California Boulevard from the stoic gray buildings housing the Cook County Criminal Courts, the Correction Department and jail just beyond. The crowd was a colorful mix of liberal focus groups, from a rainbow-clad LGBTQ coalition called Join the Impact and local antiwar contingents to the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which was selling merchandise from a fold-up table.

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Timna Axel / Comments (5)

Immigration Thu Jul 22 2010

Why Arizona is a Symptom and Not a Disease

I grew up in what is referred to as "extreme" or "deep" South Texas, in a city called McAllen, right on the border with Mexico. For me, illegal immigration is an issue that hits, quite literally, close to home. Having lived in Chicago-land for the past six years, I have been made painfully aware of the ignorance and misunderstanding that people in the North can have regarding this contentious subject. It makes sense; Chicago is roughly 1500 miles away from my home town and, other than time zones, the similarities between both places are pretty non-existent. That is why it is frustrating to hear the incessant barking from both sides about Arizona's recently-passed immigration legislation.


Talking heads are yapping away about "racial profiling," Facebook groups are blowing up with hipsters that are eager to slap on the badge of the downtrodden, and racist bigots are yelling even more about all those Mexicans stealing our jobs. Along with most of the population and Congress, I haven't read the legislation. It sounds controversial, which makes for some sexy television; but is it really equitable to Nazi Fascism, as some have said? Call me a skeptic, but I just don't believe that cops will be running around the street asking every brown person that they see for their green card. That sounds good on MSNBC, but it's just not reality. Arizona may be far away from the pontifications of the Northeastern literati, but it is still a reasonable place and a state in the Union.

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Conor McCarthy / Comments (1)

Immigration Tue Jul 13 2010

Chicagoans Go On Hunger Strike for Immigration Reform

Reverend Jose Landaverde stopped speaking mid-sentence as a cook placed a steaming plate of vegetables and beef with a side of homemade potato chips in front of him.

The table fell silent for a moment, as Eduardo Piña watched him, clutching his mug of water--the only thing he had consumed for two days. He paused, smelling the pastor's food. Smiling, he feigned a motion towards Landaverde's dinner, pretending to steal a floret of broccoli and pop it in his mouth, then laughed and sipped his water. He wouldn't be eating for another two days.

It was a moment of humor in the middle of a discussion in a Little Village cafe on a topic taken very seriously by both men: immigration reform, and the hunger strike completed by Landaverde, then taken up by Piña in an attempt to achieve it.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (1)

Immigration Sun May 02 2010

Scenes from May Day 2010 in Chicago

The international workers holiday May Day used to be celebrated pretty much everywhere in the world except the U.S--an irony, given that the day commemorates the Haymarket Massacre that took place here in Chicago in 1886. In 2006, the immigrant rights movement resurrected the holiday in its country of origin, and thousands flood the streets in cities and small towns across the country every May 1.

Yesterday's marches come at a time when the national immigration debate is heating up. Arizona's recent harsh anti-immigration bill SB 1070 propelled larger crowds than usual into the streets around the country on Saturday. In Chicago, the bill has led to a protest at Wrigley Field urging a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the state of Arizona as a whole; at a civil disobedience for immigration reform at a detention center in Broadview, activists chanted "Illinois is not Arizona!" as they were arrested. Yesterday, Chicago Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Congress's strongest proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, was arrested with 34 others in Washington, D.C., at another civil disobedience in front of the White House.

At today's march, SB 1070 was mentioned frequently, as some of the photos below show.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (9)

Immigration Sat May 01 2010

May Day Workers and Immigrant Rights Rally!

In approximately ten hours, thousands of people --both immigrants and allies-- will stock up on water bottles, carry signs and banners with messages of hope and walk the streets of Chicago to fight for a path to legalization. Immigration reform has been on the minds of many recently, especially in light of the harsh immigration law that has passed in Arizona.
This new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer, makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also makes it illegal to hire undocumented day laborers or to transport them and requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is a reason to suspect they are undocumented. Which brings up a valid question people have been asking since the first day the law was passed: What does an undocumented immigrant look like? And how would one implement the law without engaging in racial profiling? Luckily, the governor has issued an executive order that requires additional training for these officers when investigating a person's legal status.

From CNN...

"This training will include what does and does not constitute reasonable suspicion that a person is not legally present in the United States," Brewer said after signing the bill. "Racial profiling is illegal. It is illegal in America, and it's certainly illegal in Arizona," Brewer said.

This new law has sparked outrage all over the country and has inspired immigrants and allies alike to take a stand against the racist bill. This past Tuesday morning, immigration rights activists were arrested for blocking a van at a federal detention center in the western suburbs. The van held several undocumented immigrants who were being deported. Protesters are also demanding a boycott against all things Arizona. At Thursday's baseball game at Wrigley Field, over 200 people showed up to protest against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were playing against the Chicago Cubs.

To add insult to injury, Ethnic classes have been banned in Arizona and teachers with accents can no longer teach English. Teachers who don't meet the new fluency standards have the option of "taking classes to improve their english but will be fired or reassigned if they fail to reach the state's targets." I wonder if the same would apply to a person with, let's say, a British Accent, or someone with a southern drawl. A similar question could be asked of this ban: How do you define a heavy accent? Could it be the same way you define "reasonable suspicion"?

People will be marching peacefully tomorrow afternoon and hope that the new bill will encourage others to join protest rallies in Chicago and around the country. It is time we take a stand and demand a comprehensive immigration reform.

Deysi Cuevas / Comments (1)

Immigration Thu Apr 29 2010

Immigrant Rights Picket at Wrigley Field: Boycott Arizona!

Wrigley picket

Immigrants Rights Activists Picket outside Wrigley Field.

Chicago is finally getting some spring weather. In Wrigleyville, thousands of fans are enjoying the weather and catching a baseball game. Jeering the other team has a long history in sports, but today over 200 supporters of immigrants rights picketed outside Wrigley Field to protest against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 law.

The law forces law enforcement in Arizona to stop "suspected illegal immigrants" and make them prove their citizenship in order to avoid arrest. Leone Jose Bicchieri, the executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative explained that the law would "only increase racial profiling in Arizona." Describing what the law tells police to do, "You better go out today and you better stop suspected undocumented immigrants. When you say, 'Well what does that mean?' They say 'well you know, suspected undocumentented immigrants.' That means dark people."

Immigrants and civil rights groups across the country have begun a nationwide boycott against the state of Arizona in order to pressure the state to rescind the law and to prevent other state from passing similar laws.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Transportation Thu Apr 29 2010

Recent Immigrants More Likely to Ride Bikes.

Huh. Well, there's a fact you can repeat to people.

Immigrants tend to be healthier than native-born Americans when they arrive in the United States, but within a generation that advantage is lost. A new study by UCLA doctoral candidate Michael Smart suggests one reason why. In the May issue of Transportation Policy he describes findings that new immigrants -- legal or not -- are twice as likely to travel by bicycle than native-born Americans.


Previous research found that, although Latino immigrants in California have similar travel needs to the native-born, they are more likely to use alternative modes of transportation -- primarily ride giving and receiving -- because many have limited access to a car. Other factors promoting pedaling among immigrants might include living in compact neighborhoods or being comfortable as a two-wheel commuter in their homeland. Plus, illegal immigrants may choose a bicycle to avoid the contact with law enforcement officials that cars may bring. But even when Smart accounted for these variables, he found a significant "immigrant effect" on bicycle use for all immigrant groups.

Ramsin Canon

Immigration Wed Apr 28 2010

Calling For End to Deportations, 24 Arrested in Broadview

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.


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Micah Uetricht / Comments (2)

Labor & Worker Rights Thu Apr 22 2010

Students, Organizers Accuse Pete's Fresh Market Management of Spying

Workers at Pete's Fresh Market claim their employer continues to harass workers involved in a union organizing drive, accusing management of spying on organizers and students at a meeting at UIC last week.

Last month, GB covered the fight between Pete's owners and pro-union workers in which former and current employees are alleging unfair labor practices, sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, claiming multiple employees have been fired for trying to organize a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881. Pete's denies all the claims.

Representatives from the union and and supportive community organizations gathered in front of the Southwest Side Pete's at 43rd and Pulaski today and alleged that Pete's management spied on a meeting of the Mexican Students de Aztlan (MESA) at UIC with union organizers, videotaping their meeting without their consent in order to know what the union was up to.


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Micah Uetricht / Comments (10)

Immigration Sun Apr 11 2010

Democrats Target Immigration Reform - How Far Will They Go?

Immigration rally

Immigration activists wave American flags at a recent rally.

Immigration rights activists held a large rally Saturday at the Teamsters Local 705 hall in Chicago. Activists were calling on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and hoped that with the health care bill passed, that immigration reform would be next on the Democrats agenda in Washington. The loud and raucous crowd had immigrants from all over the world including South America, Asian, Africa and Europe.

It seems that immigration will be the next big issue for Democrats. The rally was joined by Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip and the second most powerful senator in the country. While one speaker urged Congress to ignore "cynics like Rahm Emanual who say that now is not the time for immigration reform," it seems as though they may not have to as Emanual is now stating that he supports taking action on immigration reform sooner rather than later.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (9)

Immigration Wed Mar 10 2010

Undocumented Youth Ready to "Come Out"

It is unfortunate but we are living in a time where discrimination against undocumented immigrants is most evident. What used to be a rapid process on the road to residency has turned into several years of struggle for millions of people. This is the case for the youth that will march through the streets of downtown Chicago Wednesday afternoon and announce that they are undocumented. They are calling it the "coming out" rally, an approach inspired by both the gay rights movement and earlier marches for immigrant rights.

From the Tribune, who spoke to a young woman about her decision to "come out":

Legions of young people like her -- brought here as children by their parents, now American in every way but the paperwork -- continue to live squeezed between the desire to speak out and the reflex to hide. "It's a radical act just to say it," she says, sitting in her workplace, which for this column she'd rather not identify.

Due to a broken immigration system, hundreds of thousands of undocumented students graduate high school every year with high hopes for the future, only to have them crushed upon learning that they are not eligible for financial aid without a social security number. It is against the law to work or drive and it is nearly impossible to go to college in some states. Contrary to popular belief, there is no path to citizenship for these people so they are taking matters into their own hands by making their presence known and hoping it will inspire others to do the same.

Deysi Cuevas / Comments (5)

Immigration Wed Dec 23 2009

Rep. Gutierrez's Immigration Bill

Earlier this month Congressman Luis Gutierrez introduced a comprehensive reform bill (with the too-cute-by-half acronym CIR ASAP, Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act) that would provide a meaningful path to legality and citizenship for millions of families working in the shadows of the economy.

The immigration issue is often shuffled into the "social issues" rubric of American politics, but it is essentially an economic issue. Enforcing a legal regime that keeps a huge number of people participating in the lower rungs of the economy outside of labor law protections has a profound ripple effect. It weakens the bargaining ability of other workers and on a basic level denies some pretty elemental human rights to a lot of people. Mass deportations is neither feasible nor moral; and big business would despair at any move like that, given how much so many industries (particularly light manufacturing, agriculture, and construction) rely on cheap immigrant labor.

What is clear is that the current system is wholly unsustainable. Horror stories of immigrant (and some citizen) treatment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have bubbled to the surface over the last year; potentially illegal coordination between local governments and ICE have caused friction between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Last fiscal year, ICE gained the dubious distinction of becoming the largest detention system in the United States:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Social Services Mon Dec 14 2009

Communities in a Strange Land: Immigrant Social Services in the Recession

[Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Caleb Melby]

One war, four wounds, 13 years in a Communist prison. These were the numbers that defined Francis Khuc's life before he immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. Now, the spry 60-year-old is a proud American with service awards that hang above his desk at The Vietnamese Association of Illinois on N. Broadway in Edgewater.

Khuc's transition to an American way of life was difficult. He faced challenges common to the immigrant experience - culture shock, a new language and the absence of a typical Vietnamese family support structure. The shift is an especially difficult one for the elderly, says Khuc, who now helps Vietnamese seniors prepare for citizenship tests.

"Some seniors, they told me I am blind when I come to America, I am crippled when I come to America, I am deaf when I come to America. I say why? I am a mute because I do not speak English. I am a deaf because I cannot hear someone speak English. I am a crippled because I cannot drive," Khuc says.

It was in the face of stories like these that The Vietnamese Association of Illinois and other organizations like Chinese Mutual Aid, Asian Human Services and The Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago were founded.

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Ramsin Canon

Labor & Worker Rights Tue Dec 08 2009

Wage Theft Outrage: Broken Labor Law and the American Worker

Reading a recent report on systematic wage theft, and with the unveiling of a "wage theft violator map" by the University of Illinois-Chicago and ARISE, I thought of the strong, negative reaction I've gotten the last few times I've written about the privileges of the well educated.

America, raised on the Horatio Alger archetype and a pop culture focused on the triumph of the individual, aches for meritocracy. So individuals get very prickly when confronted with their own privilege. The fact of our privilege makes us uncomfortable; while race separates us, class engulfs us. Jesse Jackson once said he was ashamed to find that he was relieved when, walking down the street late at night and hearing footsteps, he would turn around and see it was a white man. Perhaps--but what if it had been a black man in Brooks Brothers with a leather valise? What if it had been a Deliverance-style white guy with dirty overalls and no shirt? What if it was a juggalo? As a brown guy, I'm more afraid of juggalos than pretty much anyone else.

The most dangerous game of all

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (15)

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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