Garcia, Schakowsky charge Trump with immigrant intimidation

Reps. shine spotlight on Francisca Lino, ‘hiding’ in church sanctuary

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky speaks out against the Trump administration’s immigration policy, backed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado (center), with Pastor Emma Lozano and Francisca Lino, holding her grandson, at right. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky speaks out against the Trump administration’s immigration policy, backed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado (center), with Pastor Emma Lozano and Francisca Lino, holding her grandson, at right. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Two leading Illinois members of Congress and a Chicago alderman charged the Trump administration Monday with “fear tactics” in detaining and separating immigrant families along the U.S. border with Mexico.

U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia made the charges while shining a spotlight on the plight of Francisca Lino, an undocumented immigrant who’s sought sanctuary at a Chicago storefront church since 2017 to evade deportation.

Lino has been a U.S. resident for 20 years and is married to a U.S. citizen and has six children and a new 3-month-old grandson who are all U.S. citizens, but has never attained U.S. citizenship herself. She’s sought sanctuary at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Humboldt Park since President Trump cracked down on so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program and other undocumented immigrants late in 2017.

While family members can visit her at the church, where Monday’s news conference was held, she’s missed graduation ceremonies and the birth of her grandson while seeking sanctuary there. According to Chicago Alderman Roberto Maldonado, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement vans routinely park outside just to show they’re monitoring her and intend to arrest her if she leaves the church.

“She belongs in a setting where she can be with her family, with her husband, and live a normal life,” Garcia said. “Instead of the immigration system helping people like her to reach a pathway to citizenship, it has turned into an instrument of oppression.”

Clearly pointing his finger at Trump, Garcia said, “Immigrants become the scapegoat of opportunistic politicians, especially (those) who would seek political advantage from the suffering of families like Francisca Lino’s.”

Congressman Garcia talks with Francisca Lino before Monday’s new conference at Adalberto United Methodist Church. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Congressman Garcia talks with Francisca Lino before Monday’s new conference at Adalberto United Methodist Church. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Schakowksy insisted that, as is the case with Dreamers, brought to the United States as children as undocumented immigrants and who then grew up here, “the vast majority of Americans agree that Francisca should be allowed to stay here.”

Saying, “The fear is palpable right now” for millions of undocumented U.S. immigrants, Schakowsky drew parallels with the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico, charging, “In this country we are seeing children ripped out of the arms of their parents. This is state-sponsored kidnapping in my view. This is state-sponsored child abuse.”

“This is an intact family,” Maldonado said of the Linos. Under Trump, ICE has used families like that “as an example so that other families don’t even dare come to the border. And that is wrong.”

“It’s so wrong,” Schakowsky added. “Everyone knows it. And we are going to stand together in solidarity to make it right.”

Citing the overwhelming public support for providing some sort of path to citizenship for such undocumented immigrants, both Garcia and Schakowsky said they’d be pushing a congressional bill to codify and legalize the DACA executive order issued by President Obama, rescinded in 2017 by Trump. Maldonado has already passed a resolution through the Chicago City Council calling for Congress to pass that law.

Garcia said it’s meant to “protect the family unity of U.S.-born children,” and “it’s the moral thing to do” and “economically sensible.”

“We are a nation of immigrants, and that’s what makes America great,” Schakowsky said. Pointing out that Lino has been forced into a life of “hiding in a church,” she added, “What country in the world that has a moral heart would say she does not belong with her family?”

On Monday, Trump was quoted as saying that immigrants detained at the border — sometimes in detention camps, sometimes in large cages, oftentimes with family members divided up — “are very happy with what’s going on,” because living conditions are better than in the Central American countries they left.

Another story broke over the weekend that the FBI and ICE had adopted facial-recognition technology to use driver’s license photos in some states to track undocumented immigrants. Schakowsky labeled that “another fear tactic” of the administration.

Garcia called that “very, very troubling … not just for immigrants but for people who care about protecting our right to privacy.”

Last week, National Public Radio reported that the Trump administration was also using a clause in immigration law allowing $500-a-day fines for those ignoring deportation orders to issue fines as large as $500,000 to some undocumented immigrants who’ve sought sanctuary in the United States, as has Lino.

Lino has not been issued such a fine, but according to Adalberto Pastor Emma Lozano and Rev. “Slim” Coleman, she’s subject to being assessed such a penalty.

“They should live so long,” Lozano said. “How dare them trying to fine mothers who are just trying to stay with their children. How are they going to charge somebody who has nothing?”

“If she had a half-million dollars to pay the fine,” Coleman added, “then she’d already be an American citizen like President Trump’s wife.”