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Chicagoans to march in Postville

Members of Chicago’s Jewish and immigrant communities will travel to Postville, Iowa, to participate in an interfaith service, march and rally for immigrant rights on Sunday. On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be there for a fact-finding visit.

On May 12 Postville was the scene of the largest immigration raid in the nation’s history. Nearly 400 immigrant workers were detained at the AgriProcessors plant, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, and nearly 300 now await deportation.

That leaves families with over 500 children with no income and struggling to survive, said Tom Walsh of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. He travelled to Postville with other JCUA staff earlier this month to deliver funds from a humanitarian drive the group is conducting for the families of detainees; they went with attorneys from the National Immigrant Justice Center of Chicago’s Heartland Alliance who provided legal assistance.

There’s a pervasive sense of fear in Postville’s Latino community following the raid, Walsh said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before,” he said.

JCUA is cosponsoring Saturday’s events along with St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, the campus ministry of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Jewish Community Action in St. Paul. They’re calling for comprehensive immigration reform, family reunification, and just labor practices.

“We have a national immigration policy that is completely flawed,” said Walsh. “And it’s fixable. Why don’t we fix it?”

An interfaith service at St. Bridget’s, 135 Williams in Postville, is planned for 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, followed by a march through the town and a rally with speakers including victims of the raid.

On Saturday, Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s immigration committee, will visit Postville along with Reps. Joe Baca, CHC chair, and Albio Sires, to meet with workers at the AgricProcessors plant, detainees and their children (some of them U.S. citizens) and religious and community leaders.

“An immigration system that is predicated on fear tactics and piecemeal, deportation-only policies profoundly worsens our immigration crisis by creating broken homes and tearing the fabric of our society,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “We have seen exactly that in Postville.”

Town Hall for LGBT Immigrants

A town hall meeting on issues facing lesbian, gay and transgender immigrants next week will raise the profile of a group whose concerns are sometimes overlooked by both the gay rights and the immigrant rights movements, organizers say.

The program, Tuesday, June 12, 6 p.m., at Acme Art Works, 1741 N. Western, is the first of a series of events planned by the Chicago LGBTQ Immigrant Alliance (CLIA), a coalition that held its first town hall meeting last year.

“Immigration reform is among the most intensely debated topics today,” said Yasmin Nair of CLIA, “but many immigrants who identify as LGBTQ find that their stories and struggles with immigration are not reflected in the national debate.”

Jonathan Eoloff of the National Immigrant Justice Center will discuss prospects for the increasing number of people seeking asylum in the U.S. because they face persecution in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Debanuj DasGupta of Queers for Economic Justice will speak about the ban on immigration by people with HIV.

The HIV ban is counterproductive, Nair argues, since it “stigmatizes people with HIV” and often “drives them underground,” discouraging immigrants from seeking testing and treatment for fear of deportation, and thus contributing to the spread of the disease.

The CLIA town hall is co-sponsored by the Association of Latino Men for Action, Amigas Latinas, Latinos Progresando, Orgullo en Acción, Radio Arte/Homofrecuencia and the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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