Lightfoot sought to move Customs and Border Protection convention out of Chicago

Immigrant rights groups and the mayor have been unsuccessful in getting the conference, which starts Tuesday at the Marriott, canceled or moved out of the city.

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An aerial view of the Marriott Marquis in Chicago.

The Marriott Marquis in Chicago.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and immigrant rights groups have sought to get Marriott hotels to cancel or move a trade conference hosted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection out of Chicago — but the convention will likely start on Tuesday as planned.

The agency is set to hold its annual trade symposium at the Marriott Marquis Chicago in the South Loop on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A CBP spokesperson said the conference will “bring together the international trade industry and government to ensure we are meeting the needs of trade while being able to effectively enforce trade laws and regulations. ... CBP and other government agencies with impact on international trade, such as the Department of Commerce, are available for trade partners to discuss new trends and concerns in the industry.”

Among other panels, the symposium will feature “agency personnel, members of the trade community and other government agencies” in panel discussions about “trade remedies, e-commerce,” and “the status of affairs in the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras).”

The spokesperson did not say how many people would attend or how much the event cost to hold.

Lightfoot said late Monday afternoon she tried to get the conference moved out of the city, but was unsuccessful.

“As soon as I became aware that the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be holding a Trade Symposium in Chicago, I sought the movement of this conference to a location outside of Chicago,” the mayor said in a statement. “When it became clear that Marriott was unable to accommodate our demand, I mobilized city resources to facilitate the peaceful protest against the conference, ensure the protection of First Amendment rights and to safeguard all guests and visitors on the McCormick Place campus.”

Ten immigrant rights groups have organized a vigil outside the hotel for Tuesday morning followed by a rally at 11:30 a.m., the same time that Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is set to speak at the conference.

An online petition calling for Marriott to cancel the event garnered more than 1,600 signatures by late Monday.

“By hosting the [symposium], Marriott is showing that they in fact are not an open and safe space for guests and community members, and are actively enabling CBP and its profiteer company collaborators to continue to build the deportation machine ... to terrorize immigrant communities,” the petition reads.

Two weeks ago, Marriott said it would “decline any requests” from government agencies to detain immigrants at their hotels.

However, a Marriott spokesperson said in a statement sent Monday that it “welcomes all” guests that seek to hold functions at its hotels.

“We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations. In terms of how we would treat CBP or other government employees who seek to stay or hold events at our hotels, we have said that we would accommodate them like we would any other guest,” the company said.

The statement also said that Marriott does not take a position on the views of CBP or any guests that hold functions at their hotels.

“In accordance with the company’s long-standing approach, allowing a group to use Marriott’s facilities in no way suggests the company endorses the group’s views,” the spokesperson said.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.

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