Thousands of supporters of immigrants’ rights march downtown

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Thousands of marchers supporting immigrants’ rights head down Jackson in Chicago Thursday afternoon. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

They branded him a “demagogue” and carried aloft a grotesque caricature of President Donald Trump as they vowed a bitter fight against his immigration policies.

“I got one message for Donald Trump: We fought your daddy, we fought your granddaddy and we are going to fight you!” declared 74-year-old activist Frank Chapman. “We are not going to let you put us down. The immigrant community is part of our community. We stand here in unconditional solidarity with” them.


GalleryChapman joined thousands of supporters of immigrants’ rights Thursday as they rallied in Union Park on the Near West Side before marching downtown. Across the country, organizers of “A Day Without Immigrants” urged immigrants to stay home from work and school as a peaceful protest of the new administration’s policies on immigration.

“We are not rapists. We are not drug dealers. We are workers. . . . We are part of this society,” Jorge Mujica told the Union Park crowd.

Roberto Cortez, 41, a union carpenter, walked off the job on a downtown condo tower along with about 20 co-workers to join the rally.

“Our bosses understand what’s going on and support us,” Cortez said, also pointing out he’s not getting paid. “We’re here to support immigrants, humanity. We don’t need to live in hate, fear. Everyone wants to come to make a living. Everyone needs to get a chance. We all need a chance.”

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) told of being a first-generation American and how his parents had come here 45 years ago to escape poverty.

“That’s why people from around the world come to the United States — it’s because it’s aspirational, because it’s a place where you can get ahead,” Pawar said. “But when we elect a demagogue, someone who pits one group of working people against [another group] . . . all we end up doing is fighting each other over scraps, and that’s got to change.”

Chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless announced on Facebook that he closed four of his Chicago restaurants on Thursday in a show of solidarity for immigrants’ rights. Closed for the day were Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco and Fonda Frontera.

Anticipating that the rally might affect the schools today, Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson sent a note to parents on Wednesday.

“Every CPS school will welcome all children, regardless of their race, ethnicity or country of origin, and create a safe and affirming environment where those students can learn. We believe that every child has the absolute right to a quality education, which is why we want to see all students in school every day, including this Thursday,” the note read.

“We commend students and families for supporting the issues they believe in, but hope that all parents will choose to send their children to school tomorrow so that they can continue receiving the education that will prepare them to become our country’s next generation of leaders. If students are absent from school, their absences will be considered unexcused against their attendance records, unless their absences are related to illness, a doctor’s visit, etc.”

Meanwhile, records show that most of the undocumented people arrested in raids by immigration officials in five cities last week were not the violent criminals Trump has vowed to target for deportation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials based in Chicago arrested 239 people in the raids, tops in the country. But more than a quarter — 72 — did not have a criminal background, according to a letter from ICE officials to Democratic members of the U.S. House who requested the data.

The most serious offense for 65 others was a DUI, and 18 had been found guilty only of traffic offenses.

The breakdown was similar in other cities.

“ICE regularly conducts these types of targeted enforcement operations and has for many years,” said the letter to the House Democrats.

Contributing: Miriam DiNunzio, Matthew Hendrickson

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