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Civil Disobedience on the Rise in Call for Immigration Reform

Four white vans and a white school bus pull into the immigration staging facility around 2 a.m., but it will be another five hours before all the passengers are processed and relocated. From the outside, it is nearly impossible to see the 70 or so undocumented immigrants, due to heavily tinted and barred windows. Inside, detainees are chained by their hands and feet while awaiting deportation.

A van used for transport and processing of detained undocumented immigrants in Broadview, Ill.

An all-night vigil was held April 27 outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) daytime staging facility in Broadview, Ill., culminating in a planned civil disobedience action. Around 100 supporters and various immigration reform organizations participated throughout the night in protest of U.S. immigration laws, which they say break up families and violate human rights.

“We want to send the message to President Obama that he needs to stop raids and deportations” said Padre Jose Landaverde. “We want legalization for all.”

Members of local religious groups, students and supporters sat down in front of the ICE immigration center in a move aimed at stopping the relocation of detainees for deportation. Two dozen protesters were arrested during the peaceful demonstration.

“If the fight is going to be fought, then we need to escalate,” said Rabbi Joshua Salter. “Civil disobedience is the next step for the good of all,” he added before being taken away by police.

For the moment, the 24 protesters were successful as the van began to back up into the processing center parking lot while chants of “We shall not be moved” rose from the sidelined crowd.

But white vans full of detainees arrive and depart from Broadview on a regular basis.

According to Gail Montenegro, an officer of ICE Public Affairs, the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staging facility in Broadview processes approximately 250 undocumented individuals each week.

This year, nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants around the U.S. will be deported, according to an ICE memo subject titled “removal goals.” The quota for deportations has risen during the Obama administration.

According to a report from the Office of Immigration Statistics, the number of deportations over the last 10 years has doubled; the lowest point being around 160,00

Rabbi Joshua Salter and Padre Jose Landaverde demonstrate at the ICE detention center in Broadview, Ill., prior to their arrest.

0, in 2002. It has risen steadily since.

In 2008, nearly one-third of deportations were due to criminal activity. The remaining two-thirds were largely a combination of work-place raids, denied applications for legal residency and travel violations.

Individuals in this ‘two-thirds’ category vary greatly in circumstance. While some, as adults, may have overstayed a visitors’ visa, many have been brought to the U.S. as children. As these children grow to reach adulthood they frequently find they are ineligible for many social services afforded to citizens, though they may have spent equal amounts of time in the country. This becomes apparent in cases of such as employment, as well as higher education; many states prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending college.

The issue of rights and liberties becomes complicated when applied to the nearly 12 million individuals in the country illegally. Many Constitutional rights are guaranteed to any person residing in the country, even illegally; these are ‘natural rights,’ as exemplified through many U.S. Supreme Court rulings affecting immigrants, such as Wong Wing v. U.S., in which the Supreme Court ruled that the “the 14th Amendment to the Constitution [civil rights] is not confined to the protection of citizens.” Many civil liberties apply to undocumented immigrants as well, such as the right to free expression and due process.

In short, once inside U.S. borders, undocumented immigrants have the same protections as all U.S. citizens.

“Immigration didn’t use to be this political,” said Justin Randolph, a Chicago immigration attorney. “There’s a lot of abuse of the system.”

According to Randolph, detention of immigrants is now a multi-billion dollar business, which on a local level includes “arbitrary decisions” that create a “disparity between cases as far as where a person lives.”

“It’s about who’s coming in, and not that they’re going through the process,” said Randolph. “What you’re running into now is ‘keep all the brown people out’.”

Nationwide, many citizens and undocumented residents are calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The debate has escalated in the wake of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which was signed on April 23 and is seen by many as a law that promotes racial profiling. Acts of civil disobedience, including a hunger strike and organized resistance to detainee transportation, have emerged around the country in protest to current U.S. immigration laws.

“I think [civil disobedience] lets everyone in the nation know that the current system is so broken that people have had enough,” said Tom Walsh, director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. “I hope it’s waking people up to the severity of the issue.”


After their arrest at the ICE processing center, Walsh and the 23 other protesters were taken to Broadview police department holding cells and charged with misdemeanors and disorderly conduct. This, according to Walsh, is from having “knowingly failed to obey a lawful order of dispersal, causing substantial inconvenience by blocking traffic.”

The group has been released and awaits a court date on May 24.

Chicago Public Radio’s City Room reports on protests for immigration reform.

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