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Immigration activist detained by ICE in Chicago

Francisco Silva, 49, was detained Friday for violating bond conditions stemming from his 2015 DUI conviction.

Francisco Silva (center) with his wife and teenage son, Javier, in their home in Albany Park. Villa was detained on Aug. 23 by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Francisco Silva (center) with his wife and teenage son, Javier, in their home in Albany Park. Villa was detained on Aug. 23 by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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A member of a prominent immigration rights group was detained by federal immigration agents Friday for violating conditions of his bond stemming from a 2015 DUI conviction.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had the discretion to let 49-year-old Francisco Silva go but decided to book him instead, his lawyer said.

“We had a mountain of evidence to present today, but it seems like the ICE officers already had their minds made up before we entered the room,” immigration attorney Bindhu Vijayan said at a news conference.

Since illegally entering the United States in 1999, Silva has lived in the Chicago area. He currently lived in Albany Park, with his wife and their teenage son, Javier.

Silva and his family are active members in Organized Communities Against Deportations, a group founded in 2010 focused on battling the incarceration “of Black, brown, and immigrant communities in Chicago and surrounding areas.”

Supporters of Francisco Silva hold a rally outside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s field office in the Loop on Aug. 23 calling on the agency to release him from custody.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Following his 2015 DUI conviction, Silva was taken to Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet and placed in ICE custody. The agency released him on bond a few days later and began his deportation proceedings.

After his arrest, Silva came into contact with Organized Communities Against Deportation, which helped him navigate the immigration court system. Soon, while battling his ongoing deportation case, Silva began attending protests in support of other immigrants in similar situations.

Silva again was arrested for another DUI in 2018 — violating conditions of his bond from his arrest three years earlier. At the recommendation of his defense attorney, he eventually pleaded guilty. He spent a night at Stateville and was placed on house arrest for a year. He completed his sentence last week. Immediately after, ICE agents told Silva to appear at the agency’s field office in the Loop on or before Friday to review his bond from 2015.

Silva waited until Friday to show up to his hearing, where ICE officers eventually detained him.

Supporters of Francisco Silva stand outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s field office in the Loop, Aug. 23, 2019. They are calling the agency’s acting director of its Chicago office, leaving messages asking that he release Silva from custody.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

“There are no words to describe the harm ICE is inflicting upon the Silva family,” Xanat Sobrevilla, a deportation defense organizer with OCAD, said in an emailed statement.

“This morning Francisco was hopeful that ICE would not separate them, but unfortunately this is a common practice for this agency. Our families go into this building only to be kidnapped behind those glass doors.”

About two dozen people showed up Friday at the ICE field office in support of Silva, including Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who represents part of Albany Park.

“[Silva] is not a threat to our community. [ICE] sent a clear message to our community: If you have a check-in [at the field office], you run the risk of being detained and being deported,” he said.

It’s unclear when ICE plans on deporting Silva. The agency declined to comment.

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