Protesters call for end of Secure Communities Act

August 17, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Police took many people away in handcuffs. The demonstration took place outside an immigration hearing. So many people showed up for that hearing that some had to be turned away at the door.

Police took ten of the protesters into custody, most of whom went to the rally planning on getting arrested. They wanted to call attention to what they say are problems with the Secure Communities Act.

Members of a task force held a hearing Wednesday night to listen to some of their concerns.

Protesters sat in the street blocking traffic just after rush hour. Drivers were irritated. Police tried to keep the situation from getting out of hand. The protesters say civil disobedience is the best way they know to bring attention to their situation under the Security Communities Act.

Protester Adriana Salgado said she was trying to get arrested "because the program Secure Communities is not working for our families."

Police eventually obliged her and several of her friends, taking them into custody, eventually prompting the crowd to leave peacefully.

Protest organizers say the Secure Communities Act led to nearly a million deportations under the Obama administration, and they say the vast majority of those forced to leave the country have no criminal history.

Task force members were hearing numerous stories of families being separated. They are holding hearings like this around the country to evaluate the program. They say they expect to recommend changes.

"It's a program that definitely has a lot of problems at various levels," said task force member Arturo Venegas.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say the program was designed to locate dangerous criminals and send them back home. They say it is working.

"They had to have a previous record," said Secure Communities Assistant Director John Gurule. "They had to have previously [been] arrested by immigration, they have to have a previous criminal conviction, they have to have something that their fingerprints are in the system already."

"It's a matter of public safety - it's our primary concern," said Rick Biesada of the Illinois Minuteman Project. "It's also a matter of national security. This way we know who's in the community and who isn't."

For many undocumented immigrants, however, the act means they live in fear of being pulled over for a minor traffic violation and forced to leave the country.

Tania Unzueta helped organize the protest and is undocumented herself.

"This is something that we face every day," said Unzueta. "Being in deportation proceeding is something that we face every single day."

Police said Wednesday that no charges have been filed against any of the protesters. Ironically, if they are charged, a number of those protesters could be identified as undocumented immigrants through the Secure Communities Act, and that means they could be deported.

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