Nearly a hundred people gathered outside Gary/Chicago International Airport on Friday to protest deportations conducted through the airport on a regular basis by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since 2013, ICE Air Operations has contracted with the Gary Jet Center, a tenant of the Gary airport, to fly deportees out of the country. The agency charters planes through World Atlantic Airlines, based in Miami Spring, Florida.

By June 28, 2017, a little over 12,500 immigrants had been flown out of the airport, as reported by the Post-Tribune last year.

ICE did not provide updated numbers to the Sun-Times of total deportations out of Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Demonstrators said Friday’s rally — the third of its kind over the last year — was a way to highlight local resistance to the Trump administration’s broader immigration agenda.

“We should not be doing ICE’s dirty work on our watch, at our airport,” said Susan Hurley, executive director of Chicago Jobs with Justice. “We need to let our elected officials know that we are watching and we expect them to do the right thing and shut this down immediately.”

In a statement, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said her hands are tied by the federal government when it comes to allowing ICE to use airport facilities for deportations.

“Unfortunately, I have no authority to prohibit the legal use of airport property by the Gary Jet Center in this circumstance,” she said.

Nevertheless, Freeman-Wilson criticized the Trump administration’s ramping up of internal deportations, saying it devastates families. “The entire process is emblematic of the grave need for comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.

Speakers Friday included clergy, immigrant rights activists, and rank-and-file union workers from East Chicago and elsewhere in northwest Indiana. All said immigrants and others in the working class must remain united. Many also supported recent calls to abolish ICE.

Organizers informed the crowd early on that the airport had “canceled” the deportation flight scheduled for that day. But according to internal emails reviewed by the Sun-Times, organizers of Friday’s rally had known since Tuesday that ICE had not scheduled a Friday flight from the Gary Jet Center.

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