February 16, 2016 – Chicago, IL — Protestors sitting atop ladders and locked together are currently blocking inbound traffic outside of the Regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Office located at 101 W. Congress in Chicago, IL as others read a declaration inside the building.
“I am here to say that there needs to be an end to raids and deportations,” explains Francisco Canuto, whose home was raided by ICE in November of last year, while agents were looking for someone else. “Agents entered my home under false pretenses, they fingerprinted me and my roommates, and took me into detention. I spent 13 awful days in a detention center that I don’t wish on anyone.”
Citing ongoing ICE activity in the region, the group led by Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is calling for an end to all raids, not just those that targeted Central American families earlier this year. They point to the agency as part of the largest police force in the country and are joined by leaders from the movement for Black lives who say there is a connection between their efforts.
“Undocumented people in Chicago and nationally are living in fear daily of being taken from their homes and away from their families. We, as Black American community organizers, can relate to that fear,” members of Assata’s Daughters explained in a statement. “Our communities experience that fear when Chicago Police Officers patrol our neighborhoods, stop and frisk us, occupy our schools, and arrest us in mass. Our struggles are distinct but connected. When enforcement is overfunded, that is money that is not being spent on services that actually keep us safe…” (Read the full statement from Assata’s Daughters here)
The civil disobedience puts a spotlight on a history of abuse stemming from the Chicago Field Office run by Director Ricard Wong outlined by a list of grievances that those targeted by immigration enforcement are reading out at the protest including:
- Violation of civil and human rights and unnecessary use of force and armed weapons during immigration raids;
- Abuse of power and mistreatment of individuals by deportation officers and other ICE staff without repercussion; and
- Deportation and detention of individuals who are eligible for relief or discretion and those seeking refuge and asylum in the U.S;
- Lack of communication and accountability with community members certified to receive information about individuals, legal representatives, and community advocates.
“Chicago spends 40% of its budget on police,” adds Tania Unzueta, Policy Director for the #Not1More Campaign and organizer with OCAD. “At the federal level, government spends more on immigration than all other law enforcement combined. We have to invest in developing and nurturing our communities not deporting and incarcerating them. If these agencies have endless resources, they will find endless ways to target and harm our families. They need to be defunded and dismantled.”
Participants in the action include members of Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), Assata’s Daughters, Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), Palestinian Youth in Action, Centro Autonomo, People’s Response Team, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), and others.
Read the history and detailed outline of grievances here:
Violations of Human Rights, Abuse of Power, and Lack of Accountability at the Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office
The Chicago ICE Field Office under the direction of Field Director Ricardo Wong and Assistant Field Director Sylvia Bornaccorsi-Manno has a history of violations of human and civil rights, abuse of power, and lack of accountability and transparency. The following is a list of documented cases and instances from community-based organizations working with individuals under the jurisdiction of the Chicago ICE office:
1. Deportations of Individuals Who are NOT a “priority” for removal: Despite a directive from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to use agency resources and prioritize individuals based on the November 20, 2014 memorandum “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants,” the Chicago ICE office continues to deport individuals who are not priority for removal, and use the most limited interpretations of prosecutorial discretion. Although there are cases in which the ICE office has decided to stay or delay a deportation, the decisions over who gets to stay with their family, who remains detained, and who is deported, is at the very least inconsistent, which has grave consequences for immigrant families.
This was the case of Manuel Roman Gutierrez (A 206-274-132), who despite being a father of 2 US citizen children, having lived in the country since he was 16 years old, and only had one misdemeanor drug possession charge — which the memorandum does not list as a priority, was deported in December 2015. Another example is the case of Noe Adan Carlos Herrera (A 088-772-137), a father from Aurora, Illinois, who was held in detention for 11 months. Because he has no criminal history (beyond a possession of alcohol charge as a minor), and no new immigration violations after January 2014, he should not be considered priority for deportation. Yet, he has been told by his immigration officer to bring a ticket to self deport as soon as February 2015. He has requested a stop of his deportation to continue to take care of his US citizen daughter.
2. Violation of Civil and Human Rights During Immigration Raids: The Chicago ICE Field office has overseen immigration raids in its region even before the announced January 2015 raids that focused on Central American families. During these raids, immigrant’s testimonies describe how agents use deceptive tactics to gain access to an individual, enter people’s homes without a warrant and without permission, use force and weapons unnecessarily, and question and sometimes detain people who are far beyond their targets.
The recent story of Palatine resident made news when his community members spoke about the deceptive tactics used by immigration agents to detain him. As documented by Chicago Public Radio reporter, Reynold Garcia received text messages from immigration agents pretending to be his brother, who they said had been in an accident. When Garcia exited the church he was attending at the moment he received the text messages, immigration agents took him into custody. His family had been detained during an immigration raid just days before. He was in a texas detention center hours later.
In Chicago, Albany Park resident Francisco Canuto Medel (A 205-639-496) who is currently seeking relief from deportation from the Chicago ICE office after immigration agents entered his home in November 2015, has provided public testimony about how those agents entered his home without a warrant, questioned and fingerprinted everyone in the room. “We told them we didn’t know who they were looking for. They asked us for our IDs and took our fingerprints. I didn’t feel like I could say no. That’s when they handcuffed me and took me into a black car. Then they took us to the detention center. I was there for 12 days.” Two other people were fingerprinted along with Francisco, one who has already been deported, and a US citizen who was left in the apartment.
This is not new practice. Just two years ago another Albany Park resident, Anibal Eligio Fuentes Aguilar (A 087-489-011) fought his deportation publicly, after immigration agents entered his home identifying themselves as police officers and entered his home with several large guns, scaring his then months old baby and wife. “In 2013 immigration agents dressed as police came to my house looking for someone who may not exist. They came with their guns out, pointing everywhere, looking in each room to see who they could find.”
3. Interrupting Union Organizing and Deportation of Labor Organizers: There is a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor that states that immigration enforcement activities should not interfere with labor rights. However, as happens in other parts of the country there have been cases where immigration authorities decide that enforcement takes precedence over labor rights.
In Chicago, that was most recently seen in the case of the Rupercht company, whose owners and employees were subject to an immigration enforcement raid in July 2015, just as the workers were in the process of bargaining unionization. The workplace raid resulted in the deportation and detention of some key leaders and a weakening of the organizing that the union is still recovering from. ICE indicates that they were not aware that there was a union fight taking place, but have not taken any steps to stop the repercussions of the raids, such as staying or delaying the deportation of the union leaders or providing relief for the families affected.
4. Abuse of Power and Mistreatment of Individuals by Deportation Officers: When individuals are awaiting a decision on their case, are released under supervision, or have pending courts, their main point of interaction are deportation officers who, according to their testimonies, are often abusive and mistreat individuals. “They [deportation officers] have a lot of power over our lives. We depend on them. And there is little or no communication between us. I was told that I would have an ankle bracelet for three months, and in the end it was seven, just because they felt like it. I was not given a reason, and meanwhile my foot falls asleep, it gets very hot, and it makes it so difficult to take care of my children” says Yolanda [Last name omitted]. Another immigrant, Noe Adan Carlos Herrera (A 088-772-137) who was given an indefinite deportation stay after being held for 11 months in detention, is another example. In December of 2015 although he has been going to every check-in, and his immigration history has not changed, he was told by his deportation officer that he should bring his ticket for self deportation in the next month, ignoring his response regarding a request for prosecutorial discretion, and the ICE office has ignored requests from Noe for information regarding the change in his case.
5. Lack of Communication and Accountability with Community Members and Legal Representatives: The Chicago ICE field office has been inconsistent with its communication with legal representatives, community members with approved documents to access individual’s immigration records (such as the DHS Privacy Waiver Authorizing Disclosure to a Third Party), and advocacy organizations concerned with the practices of field agents and implementation of immigration enforcement policies. As in the case of Lesly Cortes (A204 421 151) where her attorney filed a request with ICE and tried to contact ERO regarding her case; however, ERO did not return her call or respond to emails regarding this case. Another example, since the immigration raids were announced in January, at least two important coalitions have reached out to ICE director Ricardo Wong to implement discretion, including the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The latter sent a letter with a list of 10 other community-based organizations who asked for a meeting with Director Wong. After several weeks, neither one of them has received a response. In addition, members of Organized Communities Against Deportations, an organization that advocates for immigrants facing deportation, has sent at least a half a dozen requests for urgent information on the status of individuals with cases at the ICE office, including a signed DHS privacy waiver, which have been ignored. This includes questions on the change in people’s supervision status, voluntary departure date, and the behavior of specific deportation officers.