Sunday, September 21, 2008

ICE raids in Chicago

from Immigration News Briefs


On Sept. 18, ICE agents raided several homes and apartment buildings in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood in an operation targeting people who allegedly produce and sell fake identity documents. ICE agents executed search warrants simultaneously at five locations in the area: an office where fraudulent identification documents were allegedly produced; two residences; and two photo studios which allegedly produced photos for fake documents. Activists on the scene reported that ICE agents stormed buildings, hid in garages and interrogated people on the street. Word of the raid spread quickly; tensions in the heavily Mexican neighborhood have been high since ICE made dozens of arrests at a Little Village shopping mall in April 2007 in a similar operation targeting a false document ring [see INB 4/28/07]. [Associated Press 9/18/08; ICE News Release 9/19/08]

José Landaverde, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican church in Little Village, said he was questioned during the raids by agents who asked to see his mica, a slang term for green card. Landaverde said he was visiting the local alderman's office to pick up a block-party permit. "When I walked outside the office, three officers of Immigration approached me and put me on top of my car, and then searched me," said Landaverde. "And they said, 'I want to see your documents, mica.' And then I said, 'I don't have any mica, but I have my United States passport because I'm a United States citizen.' When he saw the passport, he gave it back to me right away and he said, 'Go away.'"

On 26th Street, the neighborhood's main drag, Landaverde said immigration agents "were stopping everyone who was walking on the sidewalk and saying, 'Lay down on the floor, searching you, give me your documentation.' If you didn't have it, they were taking you." [WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio) 9/19/08]

Landaverde held a press conference on Sept. 19 to denounce the raid. "The agents showed up in the neighborhood starting at 9pm on Tuesday [Sept. 16], with helicopters and guns, and they have been terrorizing the community and taking away innocent people," said Landaverde. At the press conference, Landaverde introduced Josefina Pérez, a mother of six children who said her husband, Héctor Medina, was arrested in the street during the raids. "He was walking with his cousin and the agents arrested him, accusing him of being a false document seller when in fact he works all day doing auto body repair," said Pérez. [El Financiero (Mexico) 9/19/08 with information from Notimex/JOT]

It was not clear how many people were arrested in the raid. An ICE news release said the operation was a followup to the April 2007 sweep at the Little Village mall--targeting a competing ring of false document producers who stepped in to pick up extra business after those arrests. The news release said that on Sept. 18 "ICE agents began arresting up to 21 new defendants," and that 21 people were charged on Sept. 19 in two federal court indictments with conspiring to produce false identification documents. The news release cites US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Northern District of Illinois, and Gary J. Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago, as saying that 15 of the defendants named in the two indictments had been arrested in Chicago since the night of Sept. 16, while six are fugitives. [Note that both Landaverde and ICE say the arrests began on the night of Sept. 16, while ICE reports that the search warrants were not served until Sept. 18.] [ICE News Release 9/19/08] ICE said it will continue searching Little Village indefinitely searching for more people implicated in the production and sale of false documents. [El Financiero 9/19/08 with information from Notimex/JOT]


From Sept. 12 to 15, agents from four ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 144 people in Chicago and nearby areas in an operation targeting people who have failed to comply with deportation orders. (ICE calls such people "fugitives" or "absconders.") Of those arrested, 110 had final orders of deportation; 34 were people without legal immigration status who were encountered by ICE officers during the raids. Those arrested during the four-day operation are from 26 countries: Albania, Belize, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia and Yugoslavia.

The arrests took place in Chicago; in the Illinois communities of Beach Park, Country Club Hills, Gurnee, Grayslake, Harwood Heights, Libertyville, North Chicago, Nottingham Park, Round Lake, Skokie, Waukegan, Willowbrook and Zion; and in the northern Indiana cities of Elkhart, Goshen, Mishawaka, Nappanee and South Bend. The US Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force assisted ICE with the operation. [ICE News Release 9/17/08]

In Chicago, immigrant advocates called the raids an emblem of a broken system that has separated thousands of families through deportation. As part of Citizenship Day, activists protested on Sept. 17 in Grant Park against increased fees for US citizenship applications; the filing fee for such applications jumped from $400 to $675 on July 30, 2007. Advocates say the increased fees have reduced the number of legal residents applying for citizenship. In Chicago, applications for US citizenship dropped 39% during the first four months of the year compared with the same period last year, according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. [Chicago Tribune 9/18/08]

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