Hard-working immigrant communities across the United States are paralyzed with fear as the Trump administration continues ramping up enforcement of cold-hearted and racist immigration laws. Even mainstream, corporate media outlets can no longer pretend federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations are not impinging upon the well-being of vulnerable working class families—especially now that images of child detention camps have been seen widely. Even after Trump’s sham executive order supposedly ending the family separation policy, the fight must continue, since there are children kids separated and being held. (See PSL statement on Trump’s Executive Order here.)
For a set of twin-cities hosting a world-renowned university with deep international roots, the vibrant community of Champaign-Urbana, IL is certainly not being spared from ICE’s wrath. Their agents had made at least 28 visits to the local area in 2017, followed by others as recent as February this year. Several community activist and political groups, including the Champaign-Urbana branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, are demonstrating at 11 a.m. Saturday outside of the Drury Inn Hotel, 905 W. Anthony Drive, where local ICE agents have been known to operate out of.
The message will be loud and clear: ‘ICE is not welcome in our community!‘
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center Program Director Brian Dolinar, who organized the rally, said he’s committed to bringing the stories of undocumented people across the Midwest “out of the shadows and into the light.
“I think if we know these are individuals with their own struggles,” he said, “families trying to raise their children, working two, three jobs, spending time with their kids when they are not working, we might change the national narrative being put out by the White House.”
Dolinar said, “Fearing that ICE is conducting raids, people have missed church on Sunday, have kept their kids home from school, and stayed in their homes.” He added parents have had to make emergency plans for their children in case they are seperated. He also knows of one teen, who dreamed of going to college on a soccer scholarship, who is now working instead. That teenager is laboring to make up wages lost by his father, who according to Dolinar is facing deportation. “This is not just going on at the border,
it’s going on all throughout the Midwest in cities like ours,” he continued.
Dolinar said he’s been working with the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum since its inception in 2009. “We mobilized to get the
local sheriff to pull out of ‘Secure Communities,’” he said, “a policy of holding people for ICE at the jail for 48 hours.” Dolinar added he was recruited to help track movements of “la migra” (a.k.a. immigration police), since he was known for following police activities as both an activist and a writer. Secure Communities was an Obama-era program that targeted undocumented persons for deportation who had been charged with what Dolinar described as relatively minor charges. The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office dropped the policy in 2012.
In April, Dolinar penned an article for Smile Politely in which he cited a University YMCA report on the Champaign County immigrant population that estimated 7,000 undocumented persons were residing in the local rea. He also recounted the experience of a Guatemalan man named ‘Juan’ who was detained for deportation while arriving for work at an Urbana restaurant. The ICE agents were waiting for him.
Through interviewing friends of the man’s family members, Dolinar learned Juan was arrested and charged with a DUI in July 2017. After a long work day, he drank three beers, drove home and hit a fence when pulling into the end of his driveway. A neighbor then called the cops, Dolinar reported, and Juan was arrested. If Juan were white, he would likely never have faced such consequences, regardless of his immigration status. Furthermore, denying human beings the right to immigration and their ability to live with their families is a tactically xenophobic and oppressive element of the modern imperialist state.
The very fact that immigrants courts are holding hostage the right for parents to stay with their children, in exchange for conceding to deportation, reveals the racist nature of enforcing repressive migration laws. Local ICE operations are also enabled through cooperation with local probation officers—cooperation Dolinar discovered was court-mandated. According to his recent article, members of the Immigration Forum learned via a meeting with the previous Champaign County head of probation that a 1995 standing order by the deceased 6th Circuit Judge John P. Shonkwiler requires probation to report to ICE in six central Illinois counties. Those include Macon, Douglas, Piatt, Dewitt, Moultrie and Champaign counties.
Dolinar said the Midwest is becoming increasingly diverse, and “specifically more Brown, more inhabited by Latinos.”“The powers that be know this,” he said. “The white population that have historically inhabited this space of the Midwest, what is stolen land.” While many are fearful of this change, Dolinar said “many are not, and welcome it openly.” He continued, “Ultimately, Black, Brown, and white children will grow up together, and I hope they will change our society.”
Thus, Dolinar hopes the local community at large will understand the key message the upcoming rally: “We want our neighbors in Champaign-Urbana, and cities across Illinois, to know that immigrants are here to stay. No matter how many raids they do, people are not going away,” he said. “People are still coming here. Trump can’t stop it.”
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition-Champaign-Urbana and the PSL-CU will demonstrate alongside the following other organizations: Three Spinners, Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (GEO), Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, Prairie Greens, Champaign-Urbana Democratic Socialists of America, Prairie Greens, Sanctuary of the People, and Connect Kankakee.