Militant Journalism

Champaign-Urbana community fights back against ICE injustices

Liberation Photo
Liberation Photo

“Anywhere I see injustice, I get enraged,” said Niloofar Shambayati. She’s an Iranian-born woman who came to Champaign to complete her college education. This time in particular, Shambayati was referring to the recent mainstream media coverage of Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies that separates children from adults and detaining them. She was one of about 350 people who attended the ICE out of CU rally on Saturday morning outside of Drury Inn Hotel and Suites.

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center Program Director and demonstration organizer Brian Dolinar had previously reported ICE agents were operating out of the hotel. The hotel chain, which has locations in 25 states, is headquartered out of Creve Coeur, MO, in the greater St. Louis area. The regional field office for U.S. Customs and Border Protection is situated in downtown St. Louis.

At the June 23 rally, chants included: “When immigrants are under attack /What do we do? Stand up, fight back!”“¡Trump, escucha, / Estamos en la lucha!”

An Ecuadorian-born person at the protest described how they broke down and cried when hearing about children being seperated by ICE. “I was devastated.”“There’s no reason to be doing what they’re doing. These people aren’t all linked to criminal organizations, or anything like that. If you look at the statistics, you will clearly see it. “Undocumented immigrants are not criminals, they’re not doing what the Trump administration says they’re doing. It’s just a terrible narrative that they hold.”

Bill Mueller said he’s a part of a local faith-based organization called CU Fair (Champaign-Urbana Friends Assisting Immigrants and Refugees), which was originally formed within the CU Immigration Forum. He was there to say that we should accept immigrants in our country. “Immigrants… because of what they have endured, they bring a kind of understanding, compassion and intelligence to make differences in the world and the country,” Mueller said. ”We can’t live and deny all of that, and those who live and deny all of that will be part of the past.”

Shambayati said her first encounter with injustice was locally in Champaign-Urbana, and that she is mainly involved in activism against mass incarceration. Naturally, she was “devastated” to hear of children being separated from their families, along with the hardship endured by all those who are “coming here to build a life for themselves.”

Shambayati also pointed out the role that U.S. imperialism plays in driving migration, “A big part of it is that their countries have been devastated,” she continued, noting that since the U.S. “War on Drugs,” everything has gotten worse.”

Shambayati mentioned the crime rate and frequent political assassinations in Mexico, and pointed out that many immigrants come from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, to which have already become victims of U.S. foreign policy.

Shambayati stated that during the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “in cahoots” with the right-wing Honduran military group that overthrew the democratically elected government. After seeing images of children in cages, she said she was devastated. Shambayati also said that if Trump’s base of support doesn’t fall in line with his actions, he would not do it. “He’s sensitive to the impact these policies have on the racist elements in society,” she said. “Basically the white supremacy culture supports these kind of policies.”

University of Illinois College of Law professor on immigrant rights

Professor Francis Boyle spoke at the rally, first referencing that he introduced the class on international human rights laws into the College of Law curriculum three decades ago. One thing he teaches all of his future lawyers, he said, is that all those who are undocumented “have human rights because they are human beings.”

Boyle said these rights are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adding they apply to all undocumented persons in the U.S.. In particular, he called out the following: “Article 16:3, ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by the society and the state.’”

Boyle also said that as a father of three, he could not imagine government agents stealing his children. “What Trump is doing here constitutes a Nuremberg crime against humanity,” he said, adding that by the Nuremberg charter definition, immigrants in the U.S. are clearly being persecuting on racial grounds.

In concluding, Boyle encouraged a boycott against the hotel chain.

The rally concluded with chants demanding the abolition of ICE, and an end to deportations. Local organizations supporting the event included Three Spinners, Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (GEO), Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC), Prairie Greens, Champaign-Urbana Democratic Socialists of America, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Prairie Greens, Sanctuary of the People, and Connect Kankakee.

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