'You're welcome here': Lawyer, legislator offer tips amid fears of immigration sweep
Although President Donald Trump postponed a nationwide immigration sweep of people living illegally in the United States, a state legislator organized an information session Sunday in West Chicago offering tips for those who believe they may be targeted.
Immigration attorney Rocio Becerril led the discussion at St. Andrew Lutheran Church hosted by Democratic state Rep. Karina Villa of West Chicago. She told audience members about their rights if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents come to their homes.
"Honestly, the foundation is education," Becerril said before her talk. "Under the Constitution, there's the 4th Amendment against searches and seizures. Everybody's protected whether you are documented or not. Every person touching U.S. soil, they have protections under the laws."
Attendees received a "Know Your Rights!" card that they were instructed to hand to local law enforcement, federal immigration agents or other officers. In part, the card says the holder will remain silent and exercise legal rights by refusing to answer questions until having talked to an attorney.
In delaying the planned ICE sweep that drew criticism from immigrant advocates, Trump said he's giving lawmakers two weeks to come up with solutions for what he termed asylum and loophole problems at the U.S.-Mexico border. The planned operation was supposed to target people with final orders of removal, including families whose immigration cases had been fast-tracked by judges.
St. Andrew member Esteban Gutierrez Perez of West Chicago, who's been in the United States illegally for 19 years, said through a Spanish translator that he's optimistic Congress and the president will reach an understanding.
Perez said he works as a sales representative traveling the Midwest and pays taxes, but has been fearful for his children who were born in the United States -- not so much himself -- if he were detained.
Kristina Davis, interim superintendent of West Chicago Elementary District 33, was part of the crowd for Sunday's presentation. Her district of 4,458 students is 80 parent Hispanic, according to the Illinois State Board of Education report card.
Davis said summer school begins Monday and the possibility of ICE agents showing up at a school, however unlikely, is a "very real fear" for some parents. Safety measures are in place protecting children and their records, she said.
"We just want parents to know that this is a place that's safe and we are committed to that for the children," Davis said.
St. Andrew's pastor, the Rev. Josh Ebener, said there has been a sense of fear and uncertainty among the church's Latino members who are not living in the United Stated legally. Sessions at the church such as Sunday's on immigration rights creates an atmosphere of togetherness, he said.
"Certainly as a church, that's the message we want to send, that in the midst of all these messages that may have people think that they don't belong, we want to send a very strong message that you do belong and that you're welcome here," Ebener said.
Becerril said she plans a similar presentation from 5 to 6 p.m. July 2, in a residential complex's social services office at 2272 Algonquin Parkway in Rolling Meadows. She said the talk will be in collaboration with Rolling Meadows police.
• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this story.