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Volunteers stood ready to disrupt, but ICE deportation raids did not materialize in city

An official at a hotline run by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights — where reports of suspected ICE activity can be made — said the hotline received a few reports of ICE activity in Chicago on Sunday but none of them could be confirmed or verified.

Karen Lavengood, Sara Polonsky and Joanne Davis — all friends and members of the Evanston Bicycle Club — volunteered Sunday to roam Albany Park in search of ICE raids. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

There was little evidence that raids to round up and deport certain illegal immigrants that President Donald Trump said would begin this weekend in Chicago and around the country occurred in the city Sunday night.

An official at a hotline run by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights — where reports of suspected ICE activity can be made — said the hotline received a few reports of ICE activity in Chicago on Sunday but none of them could be confirmed or verified.

However, the New York Times reported Sunday that reports of ICE encounters in Chicago began Friday. The newspaper reported a mother and her daughters were apprehended but quickly released, a source said. CBS Chicago reported Friday that a woman was almost picked up by ICE agents in Chicago.

In Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood Sunday morning, dozens of volunteers seeking to disrupt federal deportation raids fanned out across the Northwest Side neighborhood.

Armed with cell phone cameras and teamed in pairs, the volunteers set out on foot and on bike to look for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids or signs of an impending raid, such as unmarked law enforcement vehicles staging outside a home.

Finding a raid or the telltale signs of one was to trigger a mass text message steering volunteers to the site to possibly block the street so ICE vehicles would not be able to leave, or if volunteers arrive early enough, block ICE agents from entering the home of an undocumented immigrant, organizers said.

“The main thing we want to achieve is extreme delay,” said Anthony Joel Quezada, who heads up constituent services for Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

“If we delay them an hour or two, that’s an hour or two we’ve given for the next person who’s being targeted,” he said.

The anti-raid brigade was organized by Ramirez-Rosa and fellow newly-elected Democratic Socialist Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd).

Volunteers gathered Sunday morning in the 3200 block of West Montrose Avenue, where organizers explained the mission before everyone headed out into the community.

Rodriguez Sanchez said she came up with the idea.

“I thought about this like two days ago, and I started calling people and I was like, ‘Do you think we can do this?” she said. ”The premise is very simple: let’s just be outside and be the eyes of the community.

“This is the first time that we have done anything like this,” Rodriguez Sanchez said. “We’re learning how to do it and understanding the reach we can have.

“It’s incredible that 65 people showed up this morning to try to protect their neighbors,” she said.

Two more shifts of volunteers — afternoon and evening — were scheduled to keep an eye on the Northwest Side neighborhood Sunday.

Across the street from the staging area was a nearly empty laundromat.

“We can see how people are staying home,” Rodriguez Sanchez said, noting the business is normally bustling on Sundays.

“There are many people in the community who I am very close to who are undocumented, and they have told me they don’t want to go out to go grocery shopping; they don’t want to do the most basic things because they’re worried they might not make it back home,” she said.

Volunteers were told they’d be taking the risk of being detained should they get in the way of ICE agents.

Cindy Zucker, a retired CPS teacher who volunteered to stroll Albany Park with her husband, said she’d be playing it by ear.

Zucker said she’d be willing to get in the way of federal agents “if we have the numbers.”

Last month, before announced raids that were never actually carried out, both aldermen organized a door-knocking campaign to let people know their rights should ICE agents end up at their home.

The Family Support Network Hotline is being run out of the downtown office of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The hot line phone number has been widely distributed in immigrant communities. Hot line staff help undocumented immigrants with legal representation and other services.