As President Donald Trump’s administration continues to target undocumented immigrants nationally, most recently in high-profile raids of workers in food-processing plants, local aldermen have announced new efforts to defend their communities. Ten ward offices from across the city will model “rapid-response” deportation-defense networks after a program pioneered in Logan Square’s 35th Ward.
That effort, out of the office of 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, established a Community Defense Committee (CDC) shortly after Trump’s 2016 election. The group’s efforts, from “Know Your Rights” community workshops to door-knocking to share info on how to handle an immigration raid, will expand to wards from the south to the north side.
Rosa and Alderwoman Rosanna Rodriguez, newly elected to serve the 33rd Ward covering nearby Avondale, announced the expansion at a July press conference.
“We felt that it was extremely important to do it at this moment, because of Donald Trump’s ongoing threats and because of the fear and the panic that was creating in our communities,” Rosa told LoganSquarist. “So we want to spread power not fear. We want to make sure that our communities are prepared to defend themselves, so that they don’t feel that sense of panic.”
In addition to expanding the 35th Ward’s model, both Rosa’s ward and the newcomers will now link immigrant communities with counseling resources and ask various ward employees to act as deportation eyes and ears, Rosa said.
Rodriguez heads the newly created Immigration Committee on the Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus, and she led the effort to recruit aldermen from other wards, starting with Latino Caucus members, Rosa said. At the July press conference, Rosa and Rodriguez were joined by Aldermen Byron Sigcho (Ward 25), Mike Rodriguez (Ward 22), Maria Hadden (Ward 49) and Andre Vasquez (Ward 40).
“I’m very happy that the Chicago Latino Caucus now has an immigration committee,” Rosa said. “And it’s so great that so many of the newly elected aldermen stepped up to take on this effort and take on this initiative and really help us grow and expand our efforts.”
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) also took part in the press conference, as did the SEIU HCII union and the Chicago Teachers Union.
Countering ICE trauma
The new effort to connect undocumented immigrants and their children to low-cost counseling and therapy services will support those affected—or terrorized, depending on how bluntly you want to put it—by raids from ICE, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. ICE conducted the recent raids on Mississippi plants that detained the parents of several children while the kids were in school, resulting in viral video of a crying 11-year-old girl. The agency also enforced last year’s family separation policy at the Mexican border.
“One of the reasons why that [counseling] is so important is that we know that when ICE is in someone’s home, that’s a very traumatic experience, particularly when children and family members see their loved one … detained,” Rosa said.
In speaking with community members via the 35th Ward’s CDC, Rosa said, he and others have learned the kind of damage ICE raids can place on young people. “It has a real-world impact on students,” he said. “You know, oftentimes they become very depressed. Their grades begin to suffer.”
Worries over ICE action have been high in Chicago lately. Raids of immigrant communities here and in other major cities were rumored for July, though those actions never materialized in Chicago. At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Chicago police would not be cooperating with ICE and would not provide access to police databases. In some places, such as New York, community efforts and immigrants’ knowledge of their rights thwarted ICE raids, Ruth Lopez-McCarthy, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, told Chicago’s WTTW.
Ward Eyes and Ears
In both the 35th Ward and others, deportation-response networks will now also ask ward superintendents to watch for ICE action, Rosa told LoganSquarist. These city employees already communicate regularly with ward offices about sanitation and upkeep needs, like potholes, tree trimming and sanitation code violations Rosa said, so now they’ll also let ward leaders, and their rapid-response networks, know about deportation activities.
Department of Streets and Sanitation laborers will also be asked, as they monitor the neighborhood for needed services, to keep an eye out for ICE, Rosa said.
“We’ve asked our ward superintendents to be our eyes and ears,” he said. “The ward superintendents work closely with the ward office already—you know we’re in constant communication with our ward superintendent all day.”
ICIRR maintains a city-wide crisis hotline—at 855-435-7693, or 855-HELP-MY-F(amily)—but superintendents and Streets and Sanitation workers will communicate local ward rapid-response networks, Rosa said.
As these efforts expand, the 35th Ward office will continue offering neighborhood outreach and education about immigrant rights, Rosa said. Many of the resources his office has developed will help other wards in the city set up their programs. Rosa’s CDC webpage currently shares “Know Your Rights” window-sign and “Is It a Raid?” printouts. Those documents remind immigrants, among other things, that they do not have to open their doors to ICE agents without a warrant signed by a judge. (By contrast, an administrative warrant, usually signed by an immigration officer, does not give law enforcement the right to enter a home, Rosa’s office previously told LoganSquarist.)
Those who want to access the 35th Ward office’s immigrant resources or volunteer with the CDC program can call the office at 773-887-3772 or email Anthony Quesada, who heads the office’s CDC, at [email protected].
Featured photo: Alderman Rosa hands out “Know Your Rights Cards.” Photo: Tom Vlodek