UPDATE, 3/20/2012: The 6 Chicago activists have been declared not guilty of all charges. The judge stated that the city and the state prosecutors did not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the actions taken. Before closing, Cook County Judge Peggy Chiampas, presiding over the case, said that she too came from an immigrant family, and she understood the reason why people came to the U.S. However, she clarified that her decision was based on the testimony of the police officers and the proof submitted, and did not want the court to be a “theater” for political action.
The 6 undocumented Chicago activists arrested last August during a civil disobedience protest against Secure Communities, appeared before the court last Friday March 2nd, 2012. The bench trial scheduled for that day did not take place because the police officers called by the state and the city as witnesses were not present. The city prosecutor told the judge that “due to a family death” the three police officers could not be present. “A family death? Are they all related?,” asked the judge. The city prosecutor replied that it was all the information he had. The judge said that were it not for a death in the family, she would not be accepting a delay in the trial. This is the third time that the prosecutors ask for a continuance. She set the new court date for March 20th at 9:00 am at the 26th Street Courthouse in Little Village.
The prosecutors from the state also said they would be amending the charges to include “reckless conduct” for all 6. This would be added to “mob action” and “blocking traffic.”
Jorge Mena, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, Carla Navoa, Miguel Martinez, Fanny Lopez-Martinez, and Arianna Salgado will be going back to court in March, but meanwhile they will be getting ready for the National Coming Out of the Shadows rallies taking place on March 10th and March 16th.
Want to know more about the Chicago 6? Check out some excerpts below from an interview conducted by Radio Arte’s First Voice public affairs program. The interview covers Secure Communities, family and civil disobedience, and coming out. Listen to the full interview here.
My name is Jorge, um I’m 23 and I was born in Mexico and I’m undocumented. I came to the US when I was 8 years old and in third grade. I lived in Texas first and now Chicago I just graduated from UIC.
My name is Fanny and I’m undocumented. I’m 22 years old and I was born in Mexico City and I came to Chicago when I was 13, just 9 years ago. I graduated from Dominican University in May and I’m about to start my Masters for Public Policy at the University of Chicago this fall.
Hi good afternoon, my name is Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco. I’m 24, I was born in Mexico Distrito Federal [Mexico City] and in 1994, when I turned 7, my family and I moved to Chicago. And we’ve been here ever since. I went to UIC but I graduated two years ago and I am currently not studying but I am looking for a job.
Arianna Salgado, I’m 18 years old, I’m undocumented. I came here with my mother and brother when I was 6 years old, and I will be a freshman at Dominican University on Monday.
Hi mane is Miguel Martinez, I’m 20 years old and um, I came here when I was three years old. Me and my mother came here. And I don’t have any memories of Mexico so, yeah but, I was born in Puebla, Potocino. I think that’s what it’s called., I’m currently a freshman at Wright college, but we’ll see what happens. Hopefully I won’t be a freshman again.
How is this significant to you? Why are you here with these people?
Jorge: I’m here because I was born in Mexico and I’m undocumented, and a lot of my family and friends are also undocumented. And we’ve struggled in having to go to high schools and growing up in the US. And now we’re here, I’ve already got my bachelor’s degree, there’s nothing I can do, and now they’re implementing Secure Communities that Illinois doesn’t even want and they’re still trying try to implement these. We want everyone who’s here to lose fear about being undocumented and to speak about their status. Don’t stay quiet. Talk about it to other people, cause people need to know your experience and they need to hear from you.
I want them to know that we don’t have to sit by as DHS, as ICE bullies us, our community, and terrorizes them and deports people for no reason! So, I’m here today, and I’m sitting here risking arrest because I’m, because we need to put and end to this program and I’m, every day we live in fear of deportation so this is just one of the ways that we can show that, you know, this is awful and we need to take a stand!
Why are you here at the intersection of Washington and Des Plaines, right in the middle of facing arrest and all of these youth?
Ireri: We’re trying to show the immigration officials and the government that we against programs like Secure Communities because they are deporting a lot of people that all they want to do is live their life and take care of their families.
What was it like to prepare for the risk of arrest, and possible deportation?
Um, hey this is Jorge, preparing to do the action, I felt like it was more nerve-wracking because I felt like I had to decide whether I was going to tell my mom and we’re all young, I’m 23 um, and, I think the hardest part was the night before I decided to tell my mom. Um, she was like super nervous and trying to talk me out of it. And, I mean, I had to kind of like, I mean she knew why I was doing it, but I had to like explain to her like I’m willing to take this risk. And at least for me that was the hardest part in preparing to do the action.
Was this the first time you had been part of an action and risked arrest?
Jorge: Yeah, this is the first time I do like anything. Like any civil disobedience or anything, or this is the first time I’ve gotten arrested, period. So basically like I didn’t know what to expect, I mean we knew we were going to get arrested, but you can only prepare for that, like a little bit I guess cause you don’t really know what’s going to happen once you get to jail. How you’re gonna feel when they put you in this little room and all this other stuff. Yeah, you’re gonna feel really cold (Laughter). Yeah, this is the first time I do anything like that.
Fanny: This is funny, um, for me I guess I’m what, Jorge was saying, that anxiety, that being anxious, not knowing what to expect. You know especially for this event it was very short notice, and we knew that nothing was what to expect, you know, as you know, it was immigration, they were the ones to create like, you know, like organize the hearing. So we didn’t know how things were gonna be set up, how many people were gonna speak at the, you know, hearing. So we were pretty much, you know, we knew that many things would go wrong or to our advantage. I think it went pretty much our way. But for me, I think it was also, this is my first civil disobedience as well, and for me I mean I’m married, so it wasn’t so much about my parents are going to kill me. (Laughter) I mean, they were nervous about it but I think it was mostly my husband. Mostly, well the stories mention he was in Afghanistan, well actually he was flying home, as we were planning the event. So I wasn’t really sure if I should be doing it, if it was fair to him, you know to be put under this pressure now that he’s travelling home. Um, but, you know, thankfully he was very supportive so that made me, that gave me a lot of courage to continue, but you know, you know, it was a lot of anxiety. Anxious more than anything
So your husband was returning from active duty in Afghanistan? Or was he working or?
Yeah, yeah, he got deployed to Afghanistan last year, so he just completed his year over there.
We have so many plans like, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, so it’s like we pretty much have to improvise the whole way cause we didn’t know what was gonna happen… Uh, what happens after the event is that I pretty much go back to normal. I mean, things don’t really change, people aren’t really negative towards what I do? I mean, people I work with, and people I’ve talked to were saying, saying you’re stupid, but for me, I think it was the right thing to do… I really don’t think those people understand like what I was fighting for. Especially when those people aren’t going through what we went through in our lives.
So, hi, this is Arianna. So for me, I was able to talk to my parents because I was in Kansas when I got the call, got the call for uh, for if I wanted to participate, and that same night, when I got back to the city, uh, we had a meeting about the action, and I told my parents immediately although I didn’t really know how they were going to react. And thankfully they were very supportive. Um my mom was very nervous, but um, she came through at the end, and I think that, as Miguel mentioned, I think when I started getting really nervous was when I was just sitting there. (Laughs) I don’t think it hit me until I was there, like I know why I’m doing it and I know why, why it’s important to me, but I don’t think the reality of getting arrested hits you until you’re getting arrested. Um, and after the action I, I haven’t gotten any negative feedback, but a lot of people do ask, uh, is it necessary for us to do this? Or, it wasn’t necessary for you to get arrested and get a record, and this comes from, as Jose mentioned, that don’t really understand our frustration, and don’t understand why we need to do this, because, as I think Carla mentioned on the audio post you guys mentioned earlier, people are really angry that this program is being implemented, that, you know, immigration doesn’t really care about previous contracts, this is what you have to do now. And I think it’s a thing that affects us all directly and our families so it’s a frustration and it’s an anger that you really just wanna let out, but in a positive way. So I, I try to explain that to people when they question why I decided to do this, and my hope is that they will understand where we are coming from.
Hi, this is Ireri.. Um, so, for me, I think I was asked if I wanted to participate in the action a couple of days, or possibly a week before it happened? I forget exactly. I was in Iowa for a month, and um, I didn’t know a lot about the details of what exactly was going to happen but I knew something was up, so when my sister texted me and asked me I was like yeah, like and then when I heard who was going to be a part of it I was like of course! I mean, these are people I like, I really appreciate and admire and it would a pleasure to get arrested with them (Everyone laughs). And uh, I got dropped off, I came back from Iowa that day and I got dropped off and like the I was seeing like how it was actually going to happen. Like Miguel was mentioning a lot of the plans, so it was all like, not sketchy, but like, really up for anything because we really didn’t know what would happen, because this was our first time like in an open public hearing about Secure Communities in the area. This was the first time, well the first time that DHS had said it was not an option, well probably not the first time, but like they sure made it clear that they were going to implement it everywhere. And we were very angry, I was very angry, and very much needed to get out that anger and that message in a way that would help other people understand what was going and talk about what was going on and, and talk about their stories like Jorge was saying. So, yea.
Fanny: When I was actually in jail, like Arianna said, that was when it actually hit me we are doing this, and this is happening. But one of the things that was actually happening, was that I felt very close to those 78% of people who are prosecuted under Secure Communities who are not criminals, you know. I was there in jail, in this little cell, very cold, you know, thinking about my family and it suddenly hit me. It suddenly dawned on me. How did those other 78% of people feel, when they in jail as well, you know, knowing that they didn’t do anything criminal but that they can be deported any time. So, I think that’s one of those things you don’t really feel until you are in jail. So to all those people who don’t understand why we did it, I don’t think you will possibly understand until, you know, you even know another person who is undocumented and is going under, you know, the victim of Secure Communities or actually in jail, knowing that they didn’t do anything.
Um, moreover, the next day, I guess it was that Thursday, the Obama administration announced that they were gonna start reviewing case by case, every deportation that happens in the country. Um, so just so students that would be eligible under the Dream Act to stay and be granted a broad path to citizenship would be able to stay. Well what is your take on that, like how do you guys feel as being part of that very vocal movement, part of that direct action in the day before this policy change on behalf of the Obama administration?
Ireri: Yeah, actually I was gonna say the Obama administration has said a lot of nice things before, but what actually um happens, what contradicts the things they’ve um, said, and I think it’s good in the sense that it gives us a tool to be able to like uh fight these deportations and to talk even more about immigration but um a declaration by itself isn’t gonna do much if we’re not um, looking out and making sure that people are actually not getting deported, right, and that the cases are actually getting reviewed. We’re gonna have to be very vigilant. We’re gonna ask everyone who’s listening to be looking out for things with us, right. So like the deportation proceedings, if someone like is, as has been my experience, immigration and customs enforcement tends to um, back off when things are public, but when no one’s watching, that’s when they try to um, I guess, deport people as quickly as possible.
Fanny: I agree completely with what ___ (indiscernible) already said. The one thing that I am wondering right now is that the Obama administration really did this because they really listened to the community, they listened to what people did in the, um Los Angeles and what we did here in Chicago because they really care about the human rights of those people who are noncriminals and are being deported in these deportation proceedings. Is that the reason they are doing the reforming, or do they need the Latino vote? Because we know, that we know Obama really needs the votes, and elections are coming up, you know, also being vigilant about it actually being done, you know, I think we need to question, question the government once in a while. I mean, is it just the votes, or do they really think about the immigrant community?
Jorge: Just like Ireri was saying, I would say that, the Obama administration has done a few nice things sent certain memos, said certain things, or promised certain things um, but at the end of the day, like, even if this is enforced, right? Even this does not solve all of our problems, like I’m still undocumented, I still just graduated from college, and I still can’t use my degree. So it’s like all these little nice things that could or could not go into place, change my position or change my life, or better mine or my family’s life.
Fanny: We need the DREAM Act and Immigration reform.
Arianna: Um, and going off I think, what they said uh, it’s it’s an important I guess announcement, but we do have to keep watch that things like this, when they are promised, do happen. And that we all keep kind of on their case until these things do happen. Because I think that what happens, tends to happen, is someone gives a really good announcement and we’re so happy about it we forget to keep them accountable. So I think that besides being really happy about this announcement, whether it’s gonna benefit you or not, um, we should keep, as Fanny said, our government accountable and sometimes question them.
What was your mother’s reaction to your actions last Wednesday?
Miguel: She never found out. (Everyone laughs) I never told her, she hasn’t found out yet. I’m good, I’m lucky. She’s busy taking care of my little brother, he is barely a month, so she’s staying home with him.
Jorge: My story is kind of similar to Miguel, I was raised by a single mother, and she had me when she was um 19, so she was pretty young when we came, came over to the US. And, it’s hard when people blame your parents because it’s like everything I ever do it’s like I’m asked, and you kind of have to learn how to not go crazy and make people understand that my mom came because she needed the money to raise her children. And I’m American in every sense of the world and my culture’s American, since I was in third grade, it’s kind of like you have to let people know. Like half the people that know me, if I don’t tell them I’m undocumented, they would never know. And it’s like this crazy idea that you have to explain to them, like yeah I’ve been here since I was 8, but I still can’t apply to certain scholarships, I can’t apply to financial aid. And, I don’t know, I think there’s something to be said like, we’re all Latino, we’re all born in Mexico, we all participated in the sit-in, but the other person who also did the sit-in, her name is Carla, she was born in the Philippines, like, I think that it shows something like most of the people that are being vocal about this are Latino. Because there’s this stereotype, right, that all undocumented people are born, are uh Latino, but that’s totally untrue. We know other undocumented people who were born all over the world, who are here, um, and many times, people who were born somewhere else are targeted even more than we are because they were born in a certain place other than Mexico.
Arianna: Um, I think one of the important, um, one of the important reasons uh why it’s necessary for us to come out and um, share our stories, as um, undocumented, is for um people to understand um that um you’re not a criminal. Um, I have like a very specific story of when I started coming out in my school, I had a classmate who, always, when we had classroom discussions, said well I don’t like the Democrats or I don’t think illegals should do this or do that. When he started making those comments a bit more, my teacher said, well she knew I was undocumented, my teacher said, well maybe you should watch out who you say those comments around. And I said yea, because I’m undocumented, I’m one of those illegals you talk about. And when I said that it kind of took him a while to understand that I, I was undocumented, but once he did, he said like, but you’re not how they like describe you on TV. (Everyone laughs) And I think, I think like I said, that’s one of the reasons why we have to share our stories and we need to come out because then people kind of set you aside. They no longer think of you as the illegal, but they think of you as Arianna, as Jorge, as Fanny and Miguel, human beings that had several reasons for coming to this country, most of them to have a better future. So that, um, yeah, I think it’s important that we need to come out and explain who we are. Uh, and let people know why we’re here.
What do you say to the critics that say that’s not how you go about doing this? As far as the movement goes, what do you encourage them to do? Do you encourage them to do more sit-ins, more direct action?
Arianna: Let’s all get arrested! (Laughter). Well, I think we don’t, if people as individuals make that decision, and are ready to take that step, to participate in that civil disobedience, I feel like I speak for myself when I say that I would fully support them, and I think most of us here would. And I think one of the important things as I guess, you can say as clichéd as that sounds, it’s really important to never lose hope and to kind of keep at it. I know it gets really frustrating sometimes and it feels something will never get done and you will be stuck in the same place for like ever, but it’s really important to never give up and just kind of work as hard as you can, because we, we, our community is in need of an immigration reform, of a Dream Act. So, it’s important that we continue pushing for it, that we continue fighting for it.
Jorge: I guess something that I would say to undocumented youth out there is to um, similar to what I said before. Speak about your undocumented status, speak your story, let people know you’re undocumented. And this doesn’t mean like do a sit-in and get interviewed, like say you’re undocumented. It doesn’t have to be that extreme; when we talk about, like, coming out of the shadows, it can be anything like it can be speaking to your classmates, to your really close friends, to your teacher, anyone who doesn’t know you’re undocumented and you want them to know and you want to speak about it. I mean it’s something we’ve all had to deal with it, and it’s so hard, I mean, it’s such a big part of who you are and determines a lot of decisions you make, almost every decision you make, you need to talk about, unless you go crazy. So, yea, I guess that’s something I would say. You need to speak about it, being undocumented, and come out.
Fanny: Yeah, I agree with Jorge and Arianna. Um, one thing I will say that is um, we have to use more than, you know all immigrants, more than just we’re talking about youth, I have to generalize my friends and everybody, to get educated. Um, learn about these laws. Um, when you see your friends posting about something on Facebook, a new law, it’s about anti-immigration or something like that, I mean, read it. Be informed, you know, as the saying goes, be informed get involved. You know there’s IYJL in Chicago, and me and my friends are another youth organization called L@YAL, Youth Immigration Justice League in the DuPage area. And Arianna is part of Nuestra Voz. There are different student-youth organizations in Illinois, so you know, if they wanna get involved, always get in touch with those organizations and do what you really wanna do. And like Areina said, um, I understand, um, I have friends who are like in this student Dream movement for years and it still hasn’t passed, clearly the government doesn’t care so why should I do anything. And I think that’s what we’ve learned right now. We escalated, we did the civil disobedience, and we have to keep pushing. Or if you just give up and say no, I’m not going to do anything, then nothing is going to happen. And you know, one of my friends asked me, why do you do this, and you know I said, if we don’ take care of our communities, and we don’t fight for our rights, then nobody else will do it. So, basically, it’s our responsibility and we have to get it done.
Ireri: Yeah, like totally. Find a friend, find an experience, and start questioning a lot of the definitions that like we’ve been hearing from the media and everything. Like questioning, what does it mean to be an immigrant, and questioning what does it mean to be a quote unquote criminal, cause these are conversations that, like, are still kind of in the process of being formed and reshaping things in terms of how like we think about society. Um, so yea, stories that don’t get out as much, these are stories that like we should be talking about even more.
You have like 30 seconds.
Ireri: Oh sorry. 30 seconds!
Miguel: Make yourself useful, and um, make yourself useful. (Everyone laughs)
Thanks to Thomas Swerts for the interview transcript, and of course, to First Voice for the actual interview. Blog written by Tania Unzueta.