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With Chicago’s immigrant communities fearing anticipated ICE raids, aldermen and organizers help prepare

Several reports say Chicago could be one of 10 U.S. cities targeted in widespread immigration raids starting Sunday and lasting through the week.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks to a woman on Friday outside a CTA Brown Line station ahead of anticipated ICE raids in Chicago.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks to a woman outside a CTA Brown Line station ahead of anticipated ICE raids in Chicago.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Chicago’s immigrant communities are preparing for anticipated widespread immigration arrests by federal authorities starting this Sunday as part of week-long raids in major cities around the country.

Local activists, organizers and elected officials are taking precautionary steps as several reports say as many as 2,000 families in up to 10 U.S. cities — including Chicago, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles — could be targeted in pre-dawn raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the direction of President Donald Trump.

Trump warned of the series of raids, called the “family op,” in a pair of Tweets earlier this week in which he said millions of undocumented immigrants would be deported.

ICE officials did not respond to a request for comment.

ICE raids Chicago
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speak to reporters on Friday, June 21, 2019, about anticipated ICE raids.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) handed out “know your rights” cards with instructions written in both English and Spanish at a CTA Brown Line station during Friday evening’s rush hour in Albany Park. The two aldermen said they fear the Northwest Side neighborhood, home to many immigrants, could be targeted in the raids.

“We need to take this seriously,” Rodriguez Sanchez said. “We’re scared. We don’t want to make people panic, but we do want to make sure that people are prepared in case something actually happens.”

Rodriguez Sanchez and Ramirez-Rosa encouraged residents to lock their doors; avoid signing documents they didn’t understand or answering questions; and, if arrested by ICE, have a family member call the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) support hotline at 855-435-7693.

Several activist groups and organizations, including ICIRR and the National Immigrant Justice Center, have mobilized to prepare communities for the possible raids.

Chicago police, meanwhile, will not take part in the raids, said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

“At the direction of [Mayor Lori Lightfoot], no city data — including all CPD law enforcement data and records — will be shared with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents,” Guglielmi wrote in a statement. “Supt. Eddie Johnson has also ordered CPD not to participate in any deportation raids.”

Lightfoot said in her own statement that she has spoken with top ICE officials in Chicago and “voiced my strong objection to any such raids.”

“Chicago will always be a welcoming city and a champion for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities, and I encourage any resident in need of legal aid to contact the National Immigrant Justice Center,” Lightfoot said.

Andrew Alvarado, a 22-year-old Albany Park resident, hadn’t heard about the reported raids until he saw Rodriguez Sanchez and Ramirez-Rosa at the station. After taking a “know my rights” card, Alvarado — who is Ecuadorian American — called his family to let them know.

“Personally, I am afraid for my family members and friends who are undocumented,” Alvarado said. “Whether friends or co-workers, there’s always a chance that someone might go missing, and that’s obviously something that’s really scary to think about.

“I think a lot of people just end up in seclusion. They do their best to stock up on stuff and stay hidden. And that’s the saddest part of that whole ordeal. You don’t imagine this kind of thing happening in Chicago. People think of this place as a safe haven.”