by Jessica Kim Cohen
Communications Intern, JCUA
On Saturday, June 29, 2013, law enforcement agents raided Swap-O-Rama, a flea market located in Back of the Yards, a neighborhood in Chicago’s southwest side. Since the raid, accounts have come out depicting stories of undocumented citizens being arrested and detained, and, as such, often fearing deportation.
The following Wednesday, immigrant justice leaders and Illinois officials gathered at City Hall for a press conference to discuss this raid, where many immigrants live, work and shop.
Speakers at the press conference were especially concerned over the arrests apparent of immigrants, given the immigration reform bill currently under debate in Congress. As such, many stressed a need for the government to stop deportations.
Speakers encouraged both the Chicago Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exhibit more prudence in the way they present themselves. According to Eric Rodriguez from the Latino Union of Chicago, having local police and ICE acting together confuses community members, leaving them afraid to confide in the police.
“It is a domino effect,” Rodriguez explained. “People will fear to ask for help.”
While officials claim that arrests took place due to bootleg CDs, many noted the discrepancy between the degree of force used during the raid and the small-scale nature of the crime.
“Overwhelming force was used,” Alderman George Cardenas, of the 12th Ward, said. “It was over copyright and CDs. I’m not saying it’s right, but it was over $5 CDs. The raid did not even target the producers or companies, but those just trying to make ends meet.”
“It is chilling that the police is targeting those selling $5 CDs, when there are many more violent crimes,” he continued.
When reporters asked what these participating offices and organizations plan to do next, speakers suggested educating people and other organizations about their rights. For example, about their right to remain silent and to see an attorney, regardless of their legal status.