National wave of ICE raids sparks community response


Sophia Weglarz

On July 15 2019, a nationwide series of raids to arrest and deport immigrants began after President Trump tweeted his threat to remove “millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States in mid-June. 

Since then, U.S. immigration authorities carried out the largest single-state workplace raid, arresting roughly 680 workers at seven chicken plants in central Mississippi.

While ICE raids in Chicago, Ill. or any of its suburbs have not yet materialized, the threat of arrest and detainment still looms over the community of Evanston.

“There’s a lot of fear; lots of people leave their homes to find new homes and find them here, only to have that threatened again,” junior Camila Renteria said. “There’s also this fear of being found out because it’s a secret, being undocumented, so you constantly fear being found out and what that might mean for you.”

In response to this perceived threat, the City of Evanston has taken a stance against the raids, saying in a statement by Mayor Hagerty on June 22, 2019 that the Evanston Police Department “will not provide any assistance to ICE in any enforcement actions in Evanston.,” 

“Chicago and Evanston both have passed laws that are called a Welcoming City Ordinance. Basically, a Welcoming City Ordinance says that city officials, including police, will not ask about immigration status,” Immigration Law Fellow at Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Amy Martin said. “They also put a limit on police cooperation with ICE.” 

In addition to Evanston’s position of support, Northwestern University’s Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne Kirchmeier released a statement on July 12, 2019 via social media that unless provided student consent, Northwestern will not release an individual’s identifying information, namely immigration status, except as required by law.

However, statements of support are not the only form of aid the community of Evanston has provided. District 65 and 202, the city’s public school districts, are considered Safe Havens, meaning that their schools will not cooperate with ICE. 

Places of worship can also declare themselves as Safe Havens, while providing support to residents. Many churches and synagogues in Evanston have begun to organize their outreach efforts, namely First United Methodist Church of Evanston, St. Nick’s Catholic Church and Beth Emet, among others. 

Even more so, several ETHS students are at the forefront of providing support to undocumented immigrants in navigating academic and career resources within the community. Among these students is junior Nikki Garcia, a member of ETHS’s Students Without Borders (DREAMers) Club, who recently helped organize information and “Know Your Rights” sessions at ETHS, as well as other resource-based events for undocumented students or anyone interested in being informed. “[We] had Ms.[Michelle] Vazquez give a lot of information on DACA, college opportunities, job opportunities, how to support undocumented students, and how they can get involved in letting Dreamers know about all the resources,” Garcia said. “We just wanted more people to know to let others know.”

In the meantime, Evanston residents can follow in Garcia’s lead and inform themselves on how to provide support for their fellow residents. 

“Residents can help their neighbors understand their rights, like you don’t have to open the door unless they have a warrant from a judge, let people know that they have the right to remain silent, the right to ask for a lawyer,” Martin said. “On the individual level, we are working to help build a better community, where we are very active and have organizations that can provide legal services and help organize.” 

Evanston representatives, organizations and residents are doing what they can to protect undocumented residents, keeping the city as welcoming as it can, even as the future of national ICE raids remains uncertain.

“I hope that all those undocumented stay safe,” Garcia said. “I hope that no child is left waiting for their parents to pick them up from school when they aren’t gonna show up because they are in the hands of ICE.”