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After ‘Citizens Academy’ postponement, immigration rights groups call for defunding of ICE, police

During the rally in the Loop, activists pushed around a float that depicted Robert Guadian, the director of ICE’s Chicago field office. “Undocumented, unafraid,” many chanted.

Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters push a float of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian as they march to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020.
Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters push a float of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian as they march to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Weeks after pushing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to scrap its controversial “Citizens Academy,” immigration rights groups rallied in the Loop Tuesday, calling for the defunding of the federal agency and local police.

The groups marched from the ICE field office to Federal Plaza where they held their counter “People’s Academy” workshop, explaining the history of ICE and expressing support for a Civilian Police Accountability Council that would have the power to hire and fire the police superintendent, create policy, investigate misconduct claims and set the budget.

The activists had wanted to hold the “People’s Academy” in front of the ICE field office, 101 W. Ida B. Wells Dr., but there wasn’t enough room on the sidewalk for the crowd.

Gabriel Montero, of the Chicago Alliance Against Political Repression, told other rally attendants that a Civilian Police Accountability Council, or CPAC, would help defund the Chicago Police Department.

“The end of white supremacy requires that police be under direct control of Black and Brown communities, punto (period),” Montero said.

During the rally, activists pushed around a float that depicted Robert Guadian, the director of ICE’s Chicago field office.

“Undocumented, unafraid,” many chanted while others proclaimed “Black Lives Matter” in Spanish and English.

Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters march from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy,” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters march from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy,” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

ICE’s “Citizens Academy” was scheduled to start Tuesday, but the agency recently announced it was postponing it until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

ICE had said the academy would be modeled after other law enforcement academies and would include an overview of immigration history, a demonstration of the training immigration officers go through, a tour of a jail housing detainees and information about the division that oversees flights that deport people.

But advocates decried the academy as an example of white supremacy, saying it would lead to more fear among immigrants.

While the six-week academy has been postponed, many are still worried about recent uptick in fees for some immigration applications and ICE raids, activists said.

Sara Zaleta, an organizer with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos: United Workers’ Center, said she knows of six Southeast Side raids that have taken place within the last year. She described many of those detained as residents who were going home or to work when they were stopped by immigration agents.

“ICE has terrorized our communities since it was created,” Zaleta said in Spanish. “And this continues today.”

Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters march from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy,” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Activists with immigrant rights organizations and their supporters march from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chicago Field Office to Federal Plaza in the Loop, marking the date on which ICE would have begun its now-postponed “Citizens Academy,” Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Esmeralda Montesinos, of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said Black and immigrant communities need to keep coming together and speak out since ICE engages in similar tactics as local law enforcement. Tuesday’s “People’s Academy” was the latest call for unity among Blacks and Latinos following protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“We know the systems that work to disappear, disempower and criminalize immigrants have the same white supremacy roots as the police who disappear and criminalize our Black, Brown and immigrant communities,” Montesinos said.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.