Fear, mistrust linger in immigrant neighborhood after weekend raid of South Side flea market

Fear, mistrust linger in immigrant neighborhood after weekend raid of South Side flea market
Amid a sea of legs, two children of protesters play on the ground during the rally held outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Chicago on Monday. Photo by Juan Labreche.

Days after a Saturday morning Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at a popular flea market, immigrant rights advocates are calling for an end to federal operations in their neighborhoods that they say only incite fear – and could make immigrants mistrustful of immigration reform.

At 10:30 a.m. on June 29, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation arm, along with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, conducted a raid against vendors suspected of selling pirated CDs at the Swap-O-Rama market in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Thirteen people were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of “unidentified sound or video recording,” according to Sophia Ansari, press secretary at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

The 13 people arrested in the raid have since been released on bond, Ansari said. Since 2011, Cook County has had an ordinance in place that orders the sheriff’s office to ignore detainers placed on immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As of Monday evening, no immigration charges had been levied against the individuals arrested, Ansari said.

Father Jose Landaverde of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Church in Little Village speaks with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer outside agency’s offices in downtown Chicago on Monday. Photo by Juan Labreche

The raid wasn’t an immigration raid.  It dealt with the other side of ICE’s  “immigration and customs” mandate – customs enforcement. At a press conference on Monday, immigrant rights advocates said the raid will still have a negative impact on the community.

Reyna Wences, an activist with the Immigration Youth Justice League, said she visited the Swap-O-Rama the day after the raid to find out more information about what had happened. The Immigration Youth Justice League is a Chicago-based group led by undocumented organizers working on immigrant rights.

Wences learned “there is still fear.” In an immigrant community that is already distrustful of police and lives in fear deportations, the sight of an operation that involved the arrest of immigrants has left a lasting impression, she said.

A protester and her daughter scream for justice to be served during a rally held outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Chicago on Monday. Photo by Juan Labreche

“There were children that were scared. There are families that are now deciding to leave because that was their only place of work and now they are scared to go back,” said Wences, speaking Monday at a press conference outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in downtown Chicago. “We are here to demand that ICR and Chicago police stop cooperating and terrorizing our communities,” she said.

Another speaker at the press conference brought the topic back again to immigration. The raid took place only days after the U.S. senate voted in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would offer temporary legal status to many undocumented immigrants but would also put millions of dollars toward border fencing, Border Patrol agents and drones. 

“I am calling on Barack Obama, because if it wasn’t for the Latino community, he wouldn’t have gone back to the White House, and this is how he’s treating us?” said Emma Lozano, a pastor who is part of Sin Fronteras, a Chicago-based immigration group that has called for a moratorium on all raids and deportations. “We are calling on Barack Obama’s administration to implement a moratorium now.”


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  • assumption of the risk. If you enter and/or remain in a nation illegally ...you assume the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and deported. No one forced them to violate our immigration laws.

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