Activists protest against customs confab

Pritzker signs bills protecting immigrant youths, as Customs and Border Protection holds Chicago trade symposium

Tatiana Munoz (right) leads protesters at the Customs and Border Protection trade symposium outside the Marriott Marquis in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Tatiana Munoz (right) leads protesters at the Customs and Border Protection trade symposium outside the Marriott Marquis in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Dozens of protesters rallied outside a Chicago hotel Tuesday where U.S. Customs and Border Protection was holding a trade symposium.

“There is no room for Customs and Border Protection in Chicago,” said Mansi Kathuria of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“We are here to condemn the actions of CBP, of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and of the entire Trump administration,” said Ava Garcia of the United Workers Center.

The rally was held outside the Marriott Marquis, 2121 S. Prairie Ave., where CBP was holding a trade symposium on topics ranging from spurring prosperity in Central America to “Key Customs Process Areas That Are Ripe for Improvement.”

Marriott recently announced its hotels would not agree to detain immigrants held by CBP or ICE. But the activists criticized the hotel chain for agreeing to hold the symposium, thus “enabling,” Kathuria said, “the deportation machine that is terrorizing our communities.”

The city has seen numerous immigration protests in recent weeks, including a march involving thousands of people in mid-June, in response to President Trump’s aggressive stance against undocumented immigrants, many from embattled Central American countries, crossing the border with Mexico.

Tuesday’s protest included dolls made up to look like immigrant children and held in cages, as well as crosses and coffins meant to symbolize what Kathuria charged are the 24 immigrants who have died in ICE custody this year.

Tatiana Munoz of PASO West Suburban Action Project also cited the incident last Thursday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in which CBP agents detained three children who are U.S. citizens for 13 hours in an attempt to draw their parents, who are undocumented immigrants, to the airport. Munoz charged that was intended “to coerce the parents’ deportation proceedings.”

Munoz credited “elected officials who also joined in the fight to reunite the girls with their family” for getting the children released. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot worked behind the scenes to get the children released, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston, who happened to be arriving at O’Hare from Washington, D.C., at the time, confronted CBP officials directly.

Schakowsky called the event “a kind of kidnapping of children by our government.”

At a separate event in Chicago Thursday, Gov. Pritzker signed two bills into law expanding protections for immigrant children. One “ensures that children are able to have short-term guardians if their parent is detained or deported by ICE,” according to a release put out by the Governor’s Office. The other “better enables undocumented youth to obtain visas by aligning state laws with existing federal laws.” It streamlines the process in which adoption, family, juvenile, and probate courts can grant a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, “a visa specific to undocumented children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.”

Pritzker criticized the Trump administration in signing the bills.

“The accomplishments we have secured together have been done in the name of this shared belief: Nobody should ever be treated as less than a person because of where they were born,” Pritzker said. “That’s not the message coming from Washington. Just this morning, the Trump administration announced a new class of undocumented immigrants to be subjected to expedited deportation. Once again, they are demonizing people who don’t look and think like they do. There is no place for that in Illinois. I’m proud to sign legislation that offers greater stability to the lives of immigrant children who deserve all the hope we can give them.”

The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, HANA Center, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Jobs with Justice, National Immigrant Justice Center, Never Again Chicago, and Organized Communities Against Deportation all joined in Tuesday’s demonstration outside the Marriott.