Grassroots immigrant rights struggle in Chicago area


DuPage Immigrant Solidarity Coalition

Although, ironically, immigrant detentions are slightly down as the Great Deporter in Chief Barack Obama leaves office, Donald Trump’s new immigration guidelines seek to go well beyond Obama’s, with the possibility of deportations of millions of documented workers.

Immigration agents and police officials, who in their majority supported Donald Trump, have been emboldened in their tactics by the racist and xenophobic nature of the new presidency. They have targeted farmworkers, students, and activists with pressure from the White House for local police to begin enforcing federal immigration law under the widely hated Secure Communities or “Polimigra” program.

This was evident on March 23, in Genesso, N.Y., when a police officer called ICE agents on a family of seven from Guatemala after a routine traffic stop. A mass spontaneous protest ensued, provoking ICE to release the parents. “¡Estamos con ustedes!” (“We are with you!) chanted close to 100 protesters who erupted onto the scene.

Since the election of Donald Trump, here in west suburban Chicagoland at least one ICE operation was confirmed by the press. In February, in conjunction with ICE sweeps in New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, ICE agents parked outside a heavily Latino apartment complex in the area. While the majority of residents rightly stayed inside their homes, when one individual stepped outside to go to work he was immediately picked up and taken away.

Local activists have been informing undocumented residents of their rights, and steps that can help protect them in case of raids. For example, not opening doors, not answering questions, and if knocking persists, asking for a signed warrant from a judge that includes the targeted person’s name on it.

ICE agents in the Chicago area, often without warrants from immigration judges, and still slammed with cases from the close to 3 million deportations under Obama, have resorted to trickery and deceit to get immigrant workers to open their doors. “There has been a robbery in the neighborhood and we need to talk with you,” ICE agents reportedly said in a recent raid.

The reactionary proposals from above have fueled transformative action from below. In February, with leadership from ARISE Chicago Workers Center and other local organizations, such as PASO (Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights), the city of Oak Park passed an ordinance to become a sanctuary city, setting a new precedent in the area. Naperville, Aurora, and West Chicago, along with Lake and Cook counties have stated under sustained pressure from immigrant rights activists and organizations that they would substantially limit the enforcement of immigration laws and cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Over 300 jurisdictions nationwide have sanctuary-like policies, and this number is growing. Pressure is being exerted on DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba to follow suit with the recent formation of the DuPage Sanctuary Coalition. The grassroots coalition’s goal is to gain sanctuary in DuPage County under the rallying cry of “No Human Being is Illegal! Stop All Deportations!”

We will target individual cities where there is evidence of police racial profiling (which is the majority) while promoting sanctuary in those municipalities and in schools and churches. A new Latino-Muslim solidarity will be forged.

These efforts will continue even as the large immigrant rights organizations, with their millions in establishment money, push Latinos and immigrants into the graveyard of Democratic Party politics. Their goal is to turn everything into a referendum on Trump—similar to what they did under President George W. Bush with Obama promising immigration reform in his first 100 days in office.

Immigrant and Latino workers must reject the narrow reactionary paradigms of the Republican and Democratic Parties with renewed activity in grassroots sanctuary movements, strikes, and struggles at their workplaces for union organization and higher wages.

May Day will be such a mass expression of outrage against the government’s racist anti-immigration agenda. Massive numbers of people will take to the streets with the call of Legalization for All, No Polimigra, Full Citizenship for All Workers!

With the hope of a new future of justice, equality, growing solidarity, mass protest, and rejection of xenophobia, racism, and anything that seeks to divide workers and communities, we can achieve real victories.

Photo: ICE photo of its Feb. 7 raid in Los Angeles. Via AP.

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