Chicago family sues after separation at border, meeting the mayoral candidates and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Selvin Argueta and his son, Selvin Najera, are pictured at their home in Chicago.

Selvin Argueta and his son, Selvin Najera, are pictured at their home in Chicago. Nearly five years ago, they were separated at the U.S. border in Texas as they sought asylum. The family has filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages for their experience.

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Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 27 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 17. Tomorrow will be a little cloudy with a high near 29.

Top story

Chicago family files federal lawsuit following separation at border

Nearly five years after Selvin Argueta and his then-teenage son began a journey to leave their native Guatemala to seek asylum, there’s still a part of him that feels like he hasn’t recovered from it.

Hours after turning themselves over to U.S. immigration agents, he and his eldest son, Selvin Najera, who was a minor in May 2018, were separated without much explanation. It would be more than a year and half before the father and son would see each other again.

“There’s still a wound in your heart,” Argueta said in Spanish this week. “We don’t want it to happen to anyone else because it was a very difficult moment and no one — as a human — deserves it.”

Argueta and his son, who is now 21 years old, said they don’t want any other family to go through what they experienced. It’s one of the reasons why they filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court against the government to seek monetary damages for their separation and detention. The lawsuit alleges claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, abuse of process and harboring a minor.

Their separation was prompted by a so-called zero-tolerance policy instituted by former President Donald Trump’s administration that sought to prosecute any adult crossing the border for illegal entry. If the adult had a child with them, they were separated and taken into custody by Health and Human Services, the Associated Press previously reported.

Argueta, who has since been reunited with his other six children and wife, and his son are now living in Chicago as their asylum case snakes through immigration court. Argueta and his son are represented in the recently filed lawsuit by the University of Chicago Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

The lawsuit is part of a wave of similar litigation happening across the country from parents who were separated from their children during that time period, said Jace Lee, one of the student attorneys representing the family. The family is also represented by attorney Nicole Hallett, director of the law clinic. Lee said families have tried unsuccessfully to settle their claims with the government, which is why some like Argueta are moving forward with the federal lawsuits.

Allison O’Connor, another student attorney representing the Argueta family, said they expect the government will try to have the lawsuit dismissed, but they see it as a way to hold government entities accountable for the separation.

“It was such a traumatic experience,” O’Connor said. “It was also a really dehumanizing experience. They often talk about how shocked they felt that they were treated like criminals.”

Elvia Malagón has more on the lawsuit here.

More news you need

Elections 2023

Mayoral_Candidates_Grid_3.jpeg

From left: Community activist Ja’Mal Green, Ald. Sophia King (4th), Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner, Businessman Willie Wilson, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

As we enter the final weeks leading up to the Feb. 28 election, WBEZ and the Sun-Times are continuing to roll out valuable tools to keep you informed as you prepare to make your voice heard. At our election hub, you’ll find a quiz that’ll pairs you with the candidate who aligns with your values, a mock up of what your ballot will look like and much more.

Today, we’ve published profiles of each of the nine candidates — along with video interviews — to help you get to know them better.

A bright one

Chicago’s South Side is heart — and soul — of Lyric Opera’s ‘Factotum’

About five years ago, after watching a documentary several times about the hugely successful Broadway musical “Rent,” loosely based on Puccini’s iconic opera “La Bohème,” noted baritone Will Liverman got an idea. Why not update “The Barber of Seville,” another celebrated historical opera, and set it in a contemporary Black barber shop?

“The Factotum,” the resulting work, which Liverman created with producer/DJ/multi-instrumentalist DJ King Rico, opens at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on Feb. 3 — the first of two world premieres this season presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago.

“People know the experiences in the barber shop and have lived that,” said Liverman, whose baritone is a familiar presence on the Lyric stage, “and so we wanted to create something that was accessible in that way and was a story that we had a perspective on.”

The opera is among the first with an entirely Black and BIPOC cast and creative team, and it is the first to incorporate an onstage DJ as part of its innovative 18-piece orchestration, which includes electronic keyboards and electric bass and guitar.

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Director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj (from left), conductor Kedrick Armstrong, co-creator DJ King Rico, and co-creator Will Liverman are photographed at a rehearsal of their world-premiere production of “The Factotum,” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“It speaks to what people want in the world of opera,” said Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, co-book writer, dramaturg and director. “We’ve tapped into a way to make opera important, urgent, entertaining and exciting for folks who love opera and those who’ve never experienced it.”

Liverman, who grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., and now lives in Chicago, has always been interested in composition and enthralled by theater. Although hesitant at first to dive into operatic conception, the singer took his idea for a revamped “Barber of Seville” to Rico, a childhood friend. They both discovered opera through a program in Virginia known as the Governor’s School for the Arts that ran parallel to their traditional high-school curriculum.

Rico didn’t need much convincing to sign on.

“Carving out space for our stories to be told is always something that is appealing to me,” he said, “and using the art form of opera, there are so many intricacies that you can pull from — the costumes, lighting, design and obviously the music.”

Kyle MacMillan has more with the cast of “The Factotum” here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

In honor of the first day of Black History Month, what is your favorite local, Black-owned small business? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What’s something about Chicago winters that’s actually underrated? Here’s what some of you said...

“The kindness of strangers volunteering to push stuck cars.” — Tony Fernandez

“The beauty of the ice as it builds up on things. Nature can take an ordinary object and turn it into art!” — Bobette Staley

“I must admit the city does a great job keeping the main streets plowed.” — Heidi Sommer

“Regardless of the temperature outside, the food scene and nightlife continue!” — Mark Anthony

“Great views of the lake when the ice forms.” — Nick Esposito

“The ability of Chicago’s snow removal crews to keep the roads open.” — Howard Sims

“The quiet when it snows.” — Trudee Manderfield

“Midwest hospitality! People are so nice! More than usual when it’s so cold in the city.” — Sarah Dunlap

“That look you have between others standing on a train platform in subzero temps with high winds, pure empathy and encouragement. I’ve never felt so much understanding from making eye contact with strangers than that.” — Samantha Hartsfield Jahnke

“How gorgeous the ice is along the lakefront as wind, water, and cold temps create natural works of art.” — Dorothy Desouzaguedes

“Bird watching on the lakefront.” — Michael Sewall

“When it’s cold yet sunny.” — Jackie Waldhier

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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