About 50 activists rallied outside the Broadview Detention Center Tuesday afternoon and temporarily stopped a bus filled with undocumented immigrants set to be deported.
For about an hour, 12 organizers with Undocumented Illinois formed a human chain by linking arms inside tubes made of PVC pipes in front of the bus and others joined arms around the vehicle's two front tires.
Among those on the bus, which was headed to O'Hare Airport, were two Chicago-area Mexican immigrants, Octavio Nava Cabrera, 40, and Brigido Acosta Luis, 33, who were considered a priority for deportation due to their past immigration histories. Their families and supporters toted signs outside the detention center reading, "Sorry, ICE is closed by the people" as they chanted, "Release Octavio!", "Release Brigido!" and "Not one more! Stop deportations!"
The twelve activists remained chained together on the street for about an hour after the dozens of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and police officers, many of whom were dressed in riot gear, moved them so the bus could leave. The officers later worked to saw the tubes off the protestors' arms. The twelve people were arrested for disorderly conduct and were brought to a Broadview police station.
"Undocumented people in Illinois are not safe," Reyna Wences with Undocumented Illinois screamed through a megaphone after the bus left. "We are here to tell you that we're coming back. We are stopping deportations no matter what it takes. Not one more."
Luis' wife, Maria Paz Perez, became emotional as she discussed her family's situation with Progress Illinois earlier that morning. Luis has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and a three-year-old son with Paz Perez. The family lives in Schaumburg.
"I keep thinking, 'What am I supposed to do?' I can't let a government separate my family," Paz Perez said. "(Brigido) used to kiss his son good night and say, 'God, please don't separate me from my family ever.' And now he is separated from his family."
Luis entered the United States with a valid tourist visa in 2001 in order to visit his mother, sister and brother who live in Chicago. Paz Perez says Luis did not overstay his visa, but explained that he got caught shoplifting in 2001 and did not make it to his court date.
Luis went back to Mexico and in 2002, he attempted to enter the country again with another valid tourist visa. He was stopped and interrogated, however, when he arrived at the Dallas airport, Paz Perez said. At the airport, Luis agreed to a voluntary deportation, because immigration officials allegedly threatened him with time in federal prison if he did not go back to Mexico, Paz Perez said.
Early in 2008, Luis decided to enter the country illegally in order to be with his family. Paz Perez and Luis met in March of that year.
Some years passed before Luis was arrested this March at his job, a Mount Prospect auto dealer and insurance agency, for failing to make his 2001 court date. Luis pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor retail theft charge, which then put him on ICE's radar. Three ICE officers came to Luis and Paz Perez's Schaumburg apartment on October 16 and took him to the McHenry County Jail. Luis was kept at the jail until early this morning when he was transferred to the Broadview Detention Center, Paz Perez explained. Luis is being deported on a "reinstatement of a deportation," she said, adding that he will be forced to stay out of the country for 20 years.
"[President Barack] Obama is not doing anything to stop the deportations," she told Progress Illinois. "He wants to wait for Congress to pass this [immigration reform] bill, that's fine. But he can stop the deportations until they do, so that families get a chance to be together. If this immigration reform had passed, my family would probably be together. He would probably qualify for this immigration reform bill, and right now, because they're not doing anything, I don't know how long it's going to be."
Here's more from the protest as well as Paz Perez and Maria Sanchez, Cabrera's mother:
Cabrera, whose family lives in Elmwood, has been housed in a detention center in Dodge County, Wisconsin since April after being stopped by police for rolling through a stop sign in Melrose Park. Cabrera was deported once before back in 1997 and was unable to gain asylum at his final hearing earlier this month, the protest's organizers said. It's typically very difficult for people with a prior deportation to find relief, organizers explained.
“All my son wanted was to be next to us. They didn't even let me give them a hug goodbye," Sanchez said this morning after seeing her son briefly before he was put on the bus. "It's not fair. President Obama has the power to stop deportations and keep this family together. We have fought so hard. I don't think any family should go through this."
The group wants Obama to use his administrative powers to expand prosecutorial discretion for people who have illegally crossed the U.S. border in order to reunite with their families. Tuesday's action was part of the national "Not One More" deportation campaign, urging the president to stop deportations. If deportation rates continue at their current pace, some 2 million people will have been deported by 2014 under the Obama administration.
In addition to calling for presidential action, the activists also vowed to keep pushing other politicians to stand up for the rights of undocumented immigrants and those who are at risk of being deported.
"It is not fair or just for people that have to come back into the country looking for a better life, looking to get back to their families, that they don't have a right to go to trial, that they don't have the right to pay bond, that they're basically locked up for months," added Ireri Unzeta with Undocumented Illinois. "As a community ... we need to keep doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that we are by the side of our fellow community members that are in deportation proceedings."
Paz Perez stood with tears in her eyes just before the bus pulled away at about noon.
"My son needs his father. I need my husband," she stressed. "You have to see the human side of this. They're not criminals. They're human beings who want to be with their families. Please stop the deportations now."