immigrants – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 May Day march against deportations Tue, 30 Apr 2013 22:11:34 +0000 With immigration reform finally under discussion in Washington, thousands of Chicagoans will be marching on May Day, focused on ending deportations and demanding legalization for all immigrants.

Immigrant rights mobilizations have become a May Day tradition in Chicago in recent years, and this year’s supporting coalition is larger than ever, said organizer Jorge Mujica.

They’ll meet and rally at 2 p.m. at Union Park, Ashland and Lake, marching to Federal Plaza, Jackson and LaSalle, for a rally at 4:30 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m, the Chicago Federation of Labor and church and labor groups will mark May Day — an international holiday commemorating the immigrant-led movement for an eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886 — at the Haymarket Monument, Randolph and Desplaines, before joining the march to the Federal Plaza.

Dramatically ramped-up deportations — 400,000 a year under the current administration — have “really galvanized the community and highlighted the need for reform,” said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.  “They have affected many, many people in our communities.”

Dragnet raids, supposedly aimed at criminals, have swept up asylum seekers, lawful permanent residents with minor infractions, and immigrants with no criminal record, many of whom spend months in detention without judicial review, human rights groups say.

Path to citizenship

Meanwhile, an immigration reform bill introduced in the U.S. Senate is “overall fairly good,” offering a path to permament residency and citizenship, and protecting applicants from immigration enforcement, Tsao said.  It remains to be seen whether the path to citizenship survivies the legislative process, he pointed out.

ICIRR is concerned about new restrictions on family reunification visas and the elimination of diversity visas which have been provided to immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe, he said.

He also questioned the need for “millions and millions of additional dollars” provided by the bill for fence construction, increased border patrols, and surveillence drones “at a time when immigration from Latin America is almost nonexistent” and the detention system is overloaded.

And advocates say the path to citizenship is too long, offering provisional residency for ten years before permanent residency is offered, with another three years to eligibility for citizenship — especially with work requirements for applicants.

“The longer it is, the more danger there is of people falling off,” Tsao said.

The work requirement is particularly daunting for immigrants who work in small businesses that pay cash, said Mujica, an organizer with Arise Chicago, which assists low-wage immigrant workers.

“Often we meet workers in restaurants, car washes, and small laundries who are paid in cash and have no documents showing they are employed,” though they may have held the same job for many years, he said.  Such workers “don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.

The long provisional period could also leave immigrant workers vulnerable to exploitation by employers — the same problem those with undocumented status are face, he said.

Second term: immigration, climate, foreclosures Sun, 20 Jan 2013 02:24:45 +0000 Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

What should reform look like?  It should be comprehensive rather than piecemeal, and it should include a path to citizenship — not some kind of extended residency — that does not exclude large numbers of people, said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“It needs to fix the current legal immigration system, so people aren’t waiting in line for ten or twenty years,” he said.  Reform should extend to enforcement policies, which have been cited for human rights violations, for impairing community safety, and most recently for exorbitant costs, with immigration enforcement spending outpacing the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and BATF.

Immigration reform should also include measures aimed at integrating immigrants, including English language education and citizenship training, Tsao said, pointing at Illinois’s New Americans Initiative as a model.

He adds that the support of Republican leaders in Springfield for a measure providing drivers licenses for undocumented residents during the recent veto sessions offers another model for politicians in Washington.

(For more, Colorlines has a guide to immigration reform.)


Chicagoans will be among thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. on February 17 for Forward on Climate, called by, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as “the first step in putting our country on the path for addressing the climate crisis.”

After 15,000 protestors circled the White House a year ago, Obama postponed a decision of approval for the pipeline. Tar sands oil emits far more carbon than conventional oil, and a new study points out that the use of a refinery byproduct as a coal substitute – even more carbon-intensive than coal – will add dramatically to climate damage.

“We’re trying to start the new session of Congress and President Obama’s second term by showing that the public is beyond ready for serious action on climate and clean energy,” said Jack Darin, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

On clean energy, “we need to level the playing field; it’s been titled toward fossil fuels for decades,” he said.  “If we give the market a clear signal we’re going to support and buy clean energy, it will respond.”

Darin praised departing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and several initiatives in the administration’s first term, including raising mileage standards for cars — “the single largest reduction of pollution ever” – and regulations on toxic emissions from coal plants and on carbon emissions from new sources.  “The key now is finding ways to reduce carbon from existing sources,” he said.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which seeks development of renewable energy along with oil, coal, and natural gas, came in for criticism from Len Richart of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.

He points out that destructive new “extreme” technologies like fracking and tar sands extraction are making additional sources of fossil fuels available, adding to carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.

“We really need a transitional plan,” Richart said.  “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but there’s a big difference if we agree on a transition to renewables.”

He’s particularly skeptical of the “clean coal” technology that Obama supports.  “They talk about it as if it’s up and running, and that’s not the case at all.”  In the meantime, he said, coal continues to be mined and burned, contributing a third of the nation’s carbon emissions.

Working with the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, EJC sends delegations of local activists to learn about the impact of coal mining in central and southern Illinois, which includes destruction of farmland, natural areas, and entire communities, and groundwater pollution from coal slurry and unlined pools of coal ash and sludge.

Like tar sands oil, much of Illinois’s high-sulfur coal is being exported to developing countries – which Richart argues should put to rest the argument that “all-of-the-above” development is needed for “energy independence.”


Housing advocates seem unanimous in their top priority for Obama’s second term: replacing Edward DeMarco as interim director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.  “We need someone there who’s looking out for homeowners and communities and not the bottom lines of banks,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for National Peoples Action.

DeMarco has blocked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates and which control a huge chunk of the nation’s mortgages, from carrying out loan modifications with principal reductions to reflect the collapse of housing prices.   That’s a key step if the foreclosure crisis is to be stemmed.

In the Chicago area, the foreclosure rate has been up and down, said Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.  Last year several poor communities where foreclosures had been dropping saw sharp increases: up 60 percent in West Pullman, 25 percent in Englewood, she said.

If the employment situation doesn’t improve – and if long-term unemployment benefits are cut – foreclosures could continue at high levels, she said.

Obama tried to replace DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, two years ago, but the appointment was held up in Congress.  If Congress won’t approve a replacement, Obama should made a recess appointment, Murray said.

Principal reduction has been a key proposal for housing groups since the start of the crisis, when they pushed for bankruptcy reform, a proposal that Obama supported and then backed away from.

The administration’s early efforts at foreclosure prevention were largely ineffective, in part because they sought voluntary participation by banks.  Mortgage services seemed to lack both the capacity and the interest to address the crisis on their own.

Recent settlements by state attorney generals and federal regulators have improved the framework, though according to Murray, “legal aid attorneys say the on-the-ground experience hasn’t changed dramatically.”

New servicer regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help, establishing strict timetables for servicers to act on modification requests and ending “dual tracking,” in which homeowners on trial modifications were simultaneously foreclosed on.

The future of Fannie and Freddie, now in government receivership after being bailed out, is under debate. The agencies should be reformed “in a way that maintains wealth building opportunities for the low-wealth communities of color that were targeted by predatory lending and really hurt by foreclosures,” Buitrago said.

“Completely privatizing the housing market and handing it all back to Wall Street couldn’t be a worse idea,” Murray said.  “We’ve already seen what that would mean.”

Mexico-U.S. caravan calls for end to War on Drugs Sat, 01 Sep 2012 21:36:59 +0000 Calling for an end to the war on drugs, a transnational caravan of Mexican and U.S. human rights activists is highlighting failed policies they say are behind horrific violence in Mexico and Chicago’s status as the “deadliest global city.”

Led by poet Javier Sicilia, the Caravan for Peace arrives in Chicago Sunday night and will hold a series of community events including a march for peace from Little Village to Lawndale on Monday evening (more below).

The goal is to give voice to the victims of the drug war – which has resulted in 60,000 murders in Mexico since 2006 and mass incarceration of minorities in the U.S. — and to draw connections between U.S. and Mexican policies around drug enforcement, immigration, and weapons smuggling that foster violence and insecurity in Mexico and in Chicago communities, said Cristina Garcia of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, which is coordinating the host committee here.

A leading literary figure in Mexico, Sicilia launched a movement to challenge the heavily militarized drug policies of President Felipe Calderon last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers.  He led a march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City that was joined by 100,000 people demanding an end to the war.

Chicago is one of 20 U.S. cities being visited by the caravan, which started in August in San Diego and will arrive in Washington DC on September 12.

Noting that Latin American leaders and communities in the U.S. have begun questioning the wisdom of drug prohibition, organizers call for a new approach to drug policy “based on citizen security and public health” and a broad discussion of options for regulating and controlling drugs.

They call for the U.S. to take steps to stop the flow of weapons in Mexico, including reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.  Researchers have linked its expiration to the upsurge in killings in Mexico.

They want financial institutions held accountable for preventing money laundering; an immediate suspension of U.S. aid to Mexico’s military and a shift in U.S. foreign aid from military assistance to human security and development; and reform of immigration policies that have criminalized migrants, militarized the border, and increased the involvement of criminal organizations in human trafficking.


Salicia and two busloads of activists including many survivors of violence will be greeted Sunday, September 2, with a mass at St. Pius Church, 1919 S. Ashland, at 6 p.m.

Events on Monday include a community dialogue from 1 to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th, and a march at 5 p.m., starting from the Little Village Arch at 26th and Pulaski and ending with a vigil at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington.

On Tuesday there’s a press conference at City Hall at 10 a.m., followed by events at the Lutheran School of Theology, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the Albany Park Autonomous Center (full schedule here).

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Chicago to host national Latino summit Wed, 02 May 2012 20:24:03 +0000 Chicago will host a national Latino summit this month – a nod to the leadership role lllinois has taken on immigration issues, and an opportunity for local community leaders to influence the national Latino agenda, host committee members said Wednesday.

The sixth annual National Latino Congreso takes place May 17 to 19 at the Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western, with a youth convention planned for May 16.

“The Congreso’s timing just days before NATO – also being held in Chicago for the first time – presents a unique opportunity to explore transnational issues related to immigration and security from both a Latino and a Midwestern perspective,” according to a statement from local hosts.

The Latino political and policy convention will focus on economic justice, immigration policy, and electoral and civic engagement, said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, one of seven national organizations convening the event.

It’s structured around workshops and panels to maximize dialogue among participants, he said.  First held in 2006, previous Congresos have been held in California and Texas.

One theme that emerged at a press conference at Casa Michoacan was holding politicians accountable after they are elected.

“Latinos are more and more important in elections, but time and time again, our issues and concerns are not addressed after the election is over,” Chacon said.  “We can no longer accept lip service on our issues.”

“We know how to do the work – we are the people who knock on the doors and get people elected,” said  Jesse Rios, executive director of the Chicago Metro Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.  “We have to follow up and knock on the doors of the congressmen and senators and ask what happened to the concerns we gave you.”

Chacon noted that the problem is not unique to Latinos:  “By and large, elected officials are not accountable to the people of the U.S.,” he said.  “The people they hear from day in and day out are the corporate lobbyists.

“When money calls the shots and the people don’t, that’s a huge problem, and we need to tackle it,” he said.

Chicago Spring Tue, 01 May 2012 01:47:48 +0000 A May Day march and rally by Occupy Chicago on Tuesday launches the final weeks of the Chicago Spring, culminating with protests at the NATO summit later this month.

With the theme of immigrant, labor, and youth solidarity, an array of community groups and unions will rally at noon (Tuesday, May 1) at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, and march to the Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn.

Though it continues a recent Chicago tradition of immigrant rights marches on May Day going back to 2006, it was initiated by Occupy Chicago, and in particular the group’s labor committee, said Orlando Sepulvida of Occupy the Barrio.  Strong union involvement in the march is the result of interest on the part of rank-and-file union members participating in Occupy, he said.

“After six years, [the issue of immigration reform] is not resolved, and in some ways it is worse now for undocumented families,” said Sepulvida, who has been involved in the marches going back to 2006.

Questions about whether Occupy Chicago would last out its first winter were answered when an estimated 1,000 people participated in an April 7 “Freedom Festival” in Grant Park, with teach-ins on topics including non-violent direct action, the “black bloc,” NATO, and “Mayor 1 Percent’s Budget of Austerity.”

Moving to indoor quarters allowed the group to hold a steady series of educational events and strengthen a network of working committees, according to Mark Cassello at Indignant Left.  Chicago Spring and the NATO protest are making Chicago “the national hub of the Occupy movement this spring,” Costello writes.

Peoples Summit

A People’s Summit on May 12 and 13, at Occupy Chicago’s space at 500 W. Cermak, will kick off a week of actions leading up to the May 20 NATO summit protest.

Co-sponsored by Occupy Chicago and the Coalition Against NATO/G8, the summit will feature dozens of workshops and talks by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (a frequent visitor to Afghanistan), Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, and Reiner Braun of No To NATO.

The keynoter will be Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan Parliament and women’s rights crusader.  In her early 20s, under Taliban rule, she set up a secret school for girls.  Elected to Parliament in 2005, she was expelled in 2007 after denouncing the presence of warlords and war criminals in the body, and causing a near-riot.  She has survived several assassination attempts.

“For ten years U.S. policymakers have misused the plight of Afghan women as an excuse to advance the war in Afghanistan,” Joya has said.  “Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords.  That is what your soldiers are dying for.”

Week of action

The week of action demonstrates Occupy Chicago’s capacity for connecting with organizing efforts in local communities.

On Monday, May 14, Occupy Chicago plans an action at a South Side school highlighting disinvestment in neighborhood schools, according to Brian Bean of the group’s summit working group; a May 15 an action with the theme “No human being is illegal” will draw connections between border walls impacting Mexican-Americans and Palestinians (who commemorate the date as Nakba Day), he said.

On Wednesday, May 16, Occupy Chicago and anti-eviction groups will march on Sheriff Tom Dart, calling on him to reinstate a moratorium on foreclosures; on Thursday, May 17, an environmental action will target NATO member Canada, which is promoting tar sands oil, which environmentalists call “the world’s dirtiest oil.”  And Saturday the 19th, an action highlighting the closing of mental health clinics is planned, Bean said.

On Friday, May 18, National Nurses United and other groups will rally at Daley Plaza at 12:15 p.m., focusing on the union’s call for a financial transaction tax that could raise $350 billion a year as an alternative to austerity policies.

Counter-summit for peace

On Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19,  a Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice will be held by the American Friends Service Committee and the Network for a NATO-Free Future at the People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence.  It will feature experts and activists from around the world, including author Tom Hayden (of Chicago 7 fame), Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, Sarita Gupta of Jobs With Justice, and Saraia Saher of Afghans for Peace.

“NATO’s new role as a global military alliance” – and U.S. and NATO plans to maintain troops in Afghanistan for another decade — will be examined, along with “campaigns to bring the troops home and to create a future free of wars, occupation and the costs of a militarized foreign policy.”

Sunday, May 20 is the big march starting at noon from Grant Park to McCormick Place, where the NATO summit will be getting started.  It will be led off by a contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, who will call out NATO generals for a ceremony returning their Global War on Terror medals.

Endless war

“What is the strategy? No one can articulate it,” says  Aaron Hughes of Iraq Veterans Against the War, pointing out that the new U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership agreement will allow thousands of U.S. and NATO troops to remain (and continue controversial night raids) after official withdrawal of combat troops. “How many more people are going to have to suffer in this endless war?”  IVAW is calling for immediate withdrawal.

Speakers at the Grant Park rally will include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Malalai Joya, Kathy Kelly and others, according to Eric Rudder of CANG8.

And that’s not all.  With the NATO summit concluding May 21, Occupy Chicago is planning an action day for democracy for Monday that will target Boeing Corporation on three issues, according to Bean: it’s record of tax avoidance, its role as supplier of weapons for NATO adventures, and its lead in the NATO host committee.

“They’ve raised $55 million to wine and dine these warmongers, while we’re closing clinics to save $3 million,” Bean said.  “It’s obscene.”

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Immigrant youth and mental health Mon, 31 Oct 2011 23:28:50 +0000 Youth and community organizers will join researchers and practitioners for a panel discussion exploring the unique mental health challenges faced by young people whose careers and dreams are thwarted by their immigration status.  It takes place Tuesday, November 1, at 3:30 p.m. at the Adler School of Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn.

Two recent productions of the Local Reporting Initiative deal with aspects of this issue: “Undocumented Youth: Waiting, Dreaming, and Falling Through the Cracks,” by The Gate newspaper, and “Why Are Latina Teens At-Risk for Suicide?” by Latina Voices and Mujeres Latinas.  More at

“Devastation and fear”: a film on Postville Tue, 19 Jul 2011 17:39:38 +0000 A new film brings out the poignant human stories behind the headlines about the May 12, 2008 immigration raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.  Please watch this trailer:

Filmmaker Luis Argueta will speak at a Chicago screening of “abUSed: The Postville Raid,” joined by local immigration rights activists who traveled to Postville to support victims of the raid and by Rev. Steve Brackett of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville.

The screening takes place Wednesday, July 20, at 5 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street.

The largest workplace raid in U.S. history was intended as a “pilot” to be replicated across the country, according to the film, but instead it generated widespread criticism.

The film addresses the humanitarian crisis created by the raid as well as the constitutional and human rights issues raised by assembly-line prosecutions and deportations that resulted.

One thing that comes across clearly is the terror experienced by parents and children concerned about their family members.  One local church volunteer sums it up: “Devastation and fear.”

Agriprocessors owner Sholom Rubashkin was convicted of fraud in June 2010 and sentenced to 27 years in prison.  No charges were filed concerning widespread wage, health and safety, and child labor violations.

Members of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs were among those who responded to the raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, helping to organize a massive protest and returning regularly with resources for food, shelter, and legal assistance.

The raid “cast a spotlight on how broken our immigration system is,” and “seeing the devastation to the families and the impact on the whole town’s economy” spurred JCUA to make immigration reform a priority, said Jane Ramsey, executive director of the group.

In 2009, JCUA helped launch a national Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.

“We are quite unhappy with the escalation of deportations” under the Obama administration, Ramsey said.  “It’s only exacerbating the problem.”

Brackett is a leader of the Postville Community Benefits Alliance, which has sought unsuccessfully to open a dialogue with the plant’s new owners.  Ramsey said Brackett has told her many of the old problems at the plant are returning, including wage and safety issues.

‘I, too, am America’ Sun, 03 Apr 2011 20:10:17 +0000 Tomorrow…
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

–Langston Hughes

DREAM Act students from the Immigrant Youth Justice League, sons and daughters of Chicago, speaking out at the Daley Plaza on March 10, “crossing the border of fear.”