As Neighborhood Brigades Patrol the Streets, No Signs Of ICE Raids In Chicago
By Jessica Villagomez
On a sunny Sunday morning in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, street vendors lined up while residents gathered in restaurants and biked along the streets. While the morning routine went on, rumors of looming immigration raids left the neighborhood tense and the streets much quieter than usual.
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Ana Jimenez, who lives in the neighborhood and was selling jewelry outside St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic Church, said relatively few people attended Mass.
“Usually there are lines of people. On Sundays when there is church, there are people everywhere. There’s not even sellers out today and usually there are more,” Jimenez said in Spanish.
Immigration advocates, who had braced for raids this weekend, said all was quiet for now.
Officials from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said they had not received any confirmed reports of raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through their hotline or network of community groups as of Sunday evening.
Erin Cobb, president of the Chicago chapter for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she also has not been made aware of raids. “It doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” Cobb said. “It could be happening on a smaller scale.”
Advocates said the threat remains as officials have said the sweeps will continue through the coming week.
“It’s not about what happens this morning or what happens today. This administration has made it clear that they want to deport immigrants,” said Tara Tidwell Cullen of the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd, was among the aldermen who organized neighborhood brigades on Sunday to look out for and report on any ICE presence. More than 160 volunteers were on the ground in her ward, Rodriguez Sanchez said
“It was exactly what we wanted it to be because there was no ICE presence that we know of,” Rodriguez Sanchez said Sunday evening. “It was pretty quiet.”
Rodriguez Sanchez said it was important to come together as a community in a moment when there is so much fear and use available resources to keep communities safe.
“I think it is important for anybody that spends time outside to be on the lookout,” she said. “I think the more folks that are paying attention, the safer our communities are going to be.”
Jimenez said several people had come up to her stand with concerns about the heavy police presence outside the church.
“I’m not scared because I have my business in order. I’m here to take away some of the worries people have. They’re coming up to me asking if the police out here are with immigration,” she said.
Police officers at St. Agnes said they were there as part of normal security procedures for the elected officials who were attending Mass and an immigration march that was to follow.
Arturo Riviera, a vendor in Little Village, said the pace of the neighborhood was noticeably slower.
“There are usually more people running errands. Usually when I get in to set up I have a hard time parking, but there’s tons of spots,” Riviera, of Pilsen, said in Spanish.
As churchgoers exited St. Agnes on Sunday morning, demonstrators marched down 26th Street alongside Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and Sen. Dick Durbin.
“We’re here to support our community. I know a lot of people here who stay in their homes because of tweets and threats,” said Sandra Puebla, a demonstrator from Hermosa. “A lot of people are staying at home or missing work. Showing our support makes the community stronger.”
Humberto Ortiz, of Summit, was spending the day with his family when he decided to join the demonstration.
“One doesn’t always just run into the mayor,” Ortiz said in Spanish. Ortiz said that he was glad to see politicians take the threat of ICE raids seriously and that he hopes organizations could provide clarity.
“There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty because of a lack of information,” Ortiz said. “People terrorize themselves. We see police, and it can be scary if you don’t know what they’re here for, or people will say ICE is here but we don’t see it.”
Demonstrators held signs, wore blue buttons that said “You are my neighbor” and passed out small cards with immigration advocate hotline numbers.
Several Illinois politicians spoke to onlookers at a news conference near the famous Little Village arch after the march.
“The purpose of being here is to show unity and solidarity during this difficult time,” García said. “We believe that the future of America relies on our diversity and how we stand with each other during a time of need.”
Durbin urged demonstrators to stand alongside their neighbors. “We are on your side, we stand with you together,” he said.
Lightfoot emphasized the impact a raid could have on children in the community and urged the city to stand united in support.
“This city has to stand as a beacon of hope for everyone in our immigrant community,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot was met by cheers from the audience who called out “¡Sí se puede!” (“Yes, you can!”) She reiterated that Chicago police would not facilitate ICE raids or provide database information.
“The most powerful tool is not to remain silent,” Lightfoot said. “Those of us who have a voice, we must use them, we must stand.”
In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump published by the Washington Post, Lightfoot said she took steps to stop ICE access to police databases in response to the Trump administration’s policies that “don’t make us safer or stronger as a nation” and urged the president to “rethink the harmful policies that your administration is promoting both at the border and within the homeland.”
“Consider the lasting harm that the mere threat of these raids is doing to children all over this country — children who go to bed every night and off to summer camps or playgrounds every morning with the constant worry that ICE agents will take them or their parents away,” Lightfoot said. “Any such efforts by ICE in our city will be met with fierce resistance from Chicagoans who have been organizing tirelessly in their communities, and with an unshakable resolve to stand with, and never against, our immigrant neighbors.”
The enforcement campaign is expected weeks after Trump first tweeted about, then delayed, it. Reports had indicated it would target families that have received deportation orders, but on Friday, when Trump confirmed the raids were to begin this weekend, he said agents will focus on detaining people with criminal backgrounds. Trump has said such efforts will remove dangerous people from the country and serve as a deterrent for others who are considering migration to the U.S.
The sweeps could include so-called collateral detainment of other immigrants living in the country illegally who are present when agents show up.
Since the president first announced the large-scale raids on Twitter, advocacy groups have encouraged people to prepare themselves and know their rights. That includes taking photos and video recordings of any ICE activity in their home. Targeted parents are also being encouraged to have child care plans in place in case they are taken into custody.
Chicago Tribune’s Elvia Malagón and Morgan Greene contributed.
This article is written by Jessica Villagomez from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.