Friday, December 29, 2006

INB 12/29/06: Chicago Activists Harassed, Kids Protest in DC

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 45 - December 29, 2006

1. Chicago Activists Harassed
2. Kids Protest in DC
3. RICO Lawsuit Targets Swift

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Dec. 15, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Mexican immigrant Martin Barrios on an outstanding deportation order at his home in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, Illinois. A spokesperson from Centro Sin Fronteras, a Chicago-based immigrant rights group, said Barrios was arrested around 6:30 am while still in his pajamas, in front of his US citizen wife and their three US-born children. Barrios has lived in the US for 18 years; he was ordered deported after a legal representative improperly filed an application to adjust his status.

Barrios went public with his story last April, granting an interview to the Chicago Sun-Times. At the time, he was hopeful about a bill sponsored by US Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) that would have allowed him and 35 other Illinois residents with "mixed status" families to remain in the US. That bill has not passed. Barrios' wife, Araceli Barrios, declined comment on Dec. 18, noting that her husband lost his job after the Sun-Times interview came out.

ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro said Martin Barrios has "exhausted all opportunities for appeals," but was being held at Dodge County Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin, pending a last-minute request from Chicago's Mexican Consulate to review his legal records for any basis for a final appeal. "From our standpoint, he's here in defiance of an outstanding deportation order," she said. [Chicago Sun-Times 12/19/06, 12/21/06]

In a Dec. 27 press release, Centro Sin Fronteras said it fears that ICE may also be planning to arrest Elvira Arellano, an activist who has been resisting deportation from the sanctuary of the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood since Aug. 15 [see INB 8/19/06]. According to church pastor Rev. Walter Coleman, neighborhood residents saw US Marshals taking photos on the night of Dec. 26, "behind the church in the alley and across the street in front of the church." "I can only assume that the photos are part of routine to execute a warrant to enter the church building in pursuit of a fugitive," Coleman said. "Evidently ICE is continuing its pattern of end-of-year high-profile raids," said Coleman, referring to the agency's Dec. 12 arrests of 1,282 workers at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states [see INB 12/15/06].

Centro Sin Fronteras issued a "red alert" on Dec. 27, calling on supporters to continue pressuring federal officials to declare a moratorium on raids and deportations until immigration reform legislation is passed. [Chicago Sun-Times 12/27/06; AP 12/29/06] Church members said they would resume a 24-hour vigil that includes prayer and standing watch at windows and doors and from the rooftop. The church's glass doors are kept chained and covered with heavy curtains. Coleman said church members wouldn't resist in the event of a raid. "We are going to pray; that is the only weapon we have," he said.

Mark Gregoline, deputy US marshal for northern Illinois, said on Dec. 27 that his agency is not involved in the case. ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok denied that ICE was involved in any surveillance at the site. [AP 12/29/06]


About 30 activists from Chicago, including 15 US citizen children whose parents are facing deportation or have already been deported, arrived in Washington by bus on Dec. 21 to urge President George W. Bush to declare a moratorium on raids and deportations until Congress approves an immigration reform plan. The protest also drew attention to the situation of hundreds of children whose parents were among workers detained in the Dec. 12 ICE raids at Swift meatpacking plants.

The activists from Chicago's Adalberto United Methodist Church, Centro Sin Fronteras and other organizations held a noon press conference and prayers at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, then walked to the White House for a three-hour prayer vigil, bearing signs of protest, symbols of Christmas and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The kids chanted: "Born in the USA, don't send my mommy and my daddy away."

The protesters asked Bush to stay the deportation of Chicago activist Martin Barrios, scheduled for Dec. 22. Among the children who spoke to reporters were Barrios' two youngest children, as well as Saul "Saulito" Arellano, the eight-year-old son of Elvira Arellano, who is living with her in sanctuary at the church and has become a spokesperson for the movement to stop the deportations. [United Methodist Reporter 12/21/06; Notimex 12/21/06]


On Dec. 15, a group of 18 former employees at Swift & Co. filed a $23 million lawsuit charging the company with conspiring to keep wages down by hiring undocumented workers. The plaintiffs are all naturalized US citizens or legal residents of Latin American origin who worked at the Swift plant in Cactus, Texas. [EFE 12/21/06] The lawsuit uses the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) in charging Swift with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to manipulate commerce. "When the Swift plant opened in Cactus, wages were approximately $20 an hour," plaintiffs' attorney Michael Heygood told reporters in Texas. "Now, the average wage is approximately $12 to $13 an hour." [Washington Times 12/19/06] Several union officials said Swift began improving its wages, benefits and bonuses in the weeks before the raids. "They're trying to staff up their plants and they've been raising their wages the past few weeks," said United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) spokesperson Jill Cashen. [AP 12/19/06]


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