Collaborations form to organize immigration workshops


Photo by: Keyandre Jackson

Mural by: Martanoemí Noriega (Panamá) Jenny Morales Olaya (Panamá) Delilah D. Salgado (Chicago), Valerie Valdez (Chicago), Gloe (Chicago)

In neighborhoods across the city, immigration advocacy groups have been generating information sessions to keep undocumented residents and allies informed about their rights under the law. Beginning late last year, several information sessions have been held throughout the Southwest Side in Back of the Yards, Little Village and Gage Park, among other neighborhoods. Other community meetings and workshops followed and have been ongoing as organizations continue working to reach the masses and keep communities informed.

On Friday, Jan. 27, various neighborhood organizations gathered at Davis Square Park to reflect on how the new presidency might affect immigration policy.  Those in attendance were youth advocates, educators, executive directors, lawyers, administrators and other community leaders.

Tensions around possible immigration policy changes further compound pre-existing safety concerns in Back of the Yards and other immigrant communities.  Berto Aguayo, a community organizer for The Resurrection Project, said it will be hard to educate those expressing their support in having federal agents help deport gang members. “Supporting the deportation of that gang member on the street, in one way or another is supporting them to deport [all] undocumented people.” He goes on to say that, “because of those safety concerns, our people are supporting our own deportations.”

While community leaders continue to work on attaining more information, educators and youth advocates from Back of the Yards are mobilizing themselves to further inform local school staff. At Richards Career Academy, a couple of teaching artists from Community Arts Sustaining Academics, CASA, an after-school partner are working with school administration to understand the plan of action and policies to inform and support youth who may be confused or have questions regarding raids and deportations. On Thursday, Feb. 16 resources were displayed on lunchroom pillars and bathroom stalls throughout the school.

There are still many unknowns for students who have DACA and those who are/were thinking to apply; this is a vital time to stay informed. In December, Back of the Yards College Prep and Gage Park High School held Dreamers Town Hall meetings.  Panelists included representatives from Chicago Public Schools, the National Immigrant Justice Center and local groups like the Southwest Organizing Project.

Q. As a community what can we do to protect our families from deportation?

A. “Just by you being here, you have rights under the constitution.  If you are approached by ICE, or if you’re stopped by a police officer, you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, you have the right to not answer any questions that might be asked.  “Beware of notarios- they are not qualified to represent people or file petitions [in] immigration proceedings.  Don’t sign any legal documents without speaking with an immigration lawyer.  If you are asked to sign any document by ICE make sure you remember your rights- your rights to have a lawyer, to ask questions, etc.  Always talk to a lawyer before making any decisions.  

Courtney Moran, attorney from the National Immigrant Justice Center

Q: From an organizing lens, please share specific efforts that are already underway that students and families can engage in.  

Students and families should know which organizations are operating in your immediate area.

Located at 63rd and Rockwell, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) works with undocumented leaders, parents, youth, churches and schools on a variety of issues.

Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) undocumented people and allies, specifically deals with response work.  If someone is in deportation proceedings, OCAD works to put pressure on the Chicago ICE office and elected officials.

Julian Lazalde, civic engagement manager, SWOP.

The town hall sessions posed many questions and answers but also allowed for students to share their stories regarding deportation and their emotional state in dealing with the unknown of their future. While many community organizations are working to keep everyone at bay to avoid misinformation and panic, they are also preparing and informing various immigrant communities with resources that will help defend them and their rights under the law.