New round in the fight against deportations

By Orlando SepĂșlveda

CHICAGO--Centro Sin Fronteras, Familia Latina Unida and the Adalberto United Methodist Church are gearing up for a second round in their fight against deportations and the separation of families.

Flor Crisóstomo is the mother of three children who live in Mexico with their grandmother. She came to the U.S. in 2001 and worked at IFCO System to support them, until she was arrested in a highly publicized workplace raid in April 2006. Since then, she has become a leading activist in the fight against such deportations, playing an important role in Elvira Arellano's fight to stay in the U.S.

Now Crisóstomo herself is asking for help. She wrote a letter explaining that she too will now seek sanctuary in a church located in the Latino neighborhood of Humboldt Park.

"On January 28, 2008," her letter reads, "I am supposed to present myself to the immigration authorities with a suitcase weighing 40 pounds and my airline ticket to depart 'voluntarily' from this country. But I will not allow myself to be used as a symbol of fear...[I]n the name of my children...and of all undocumented people, I have decided to remain."

Rev. Walter "Slim" Coleman accepted her request on behalf of the Adalberto Church. "That's what the church is for," he told the Associated Press. "To provide space where the truth can be told...The current policies are driving people further and further underground, [and] she wanted to continue the struggle."

In another case in nearby Logan Square, two brothers, Hugo Alfredo and Miguel Angel Salgado, were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) agents earlier this year. They are being held in Kenosha, Wis., and McHenry, Ill., respectively, one of them with a bail of $10,000. They left behind their two wives and six kids.

"We were ready to go to sleep when agents wearing vests that read 'Police' knocked on the door," explained Cintia, the wife of Miguel Angel, in an interview. "They said they wanted to talk to Miguel Angel, so he came to the door."

"They told Miguel Angel to go downstairs with them. Halfway down the stairs, they asked him about his immigration status. Miguel Angel didn't answer. As they arrived downstairs, my brother-in-law was exiting his apartment on the first floor to see what was happening, and they identified themselves as immigration agents. They took both of them."

"They worked washing windows to support us," said Cintia. "How will we pay the rent now? Luckily, our other brother-in-law has taken us into his home. But now we have no money for lawyers, let alone the $10,000 in bail."

This case raises serious questions about the methods used by ICE agents. In recent years, immigrant rights activists have advised people not to open their doors to any agent, unless they come with a warrant. Martín Unzueta of the Chicago Workers Collboarative reports that indeed the message has gotten out, and some people have successfully defended themselves this way.

But now, ICE agents are either impersonating Chicago police officers, or some rogue police officers are collaborating with ICE agents. Either way, this is a clear violation of police procedures, since the Chicago Police Department is not authorized to carry out immigration enforcement.

For her part, Cintia plans to visit Crisóstomo at the church sanctuary, explaining that it's important "to unite with people with the same problem in order to struggle more effectively...I will fight to the end, and if I am forced to go back, I will at least go with the dignity and pride that I fought for the people that I love."