10 charged after immigration protest

August 18, 2011 (CHICAGO)

They were protesting outside of a hearing on a federal immigration enforcement program. All 10 were taken into custody after staging a sit-in and blocking traffic on the city's Near West Side.

The protesters face misdemeanor charges. They were all released early Thursday morning. Immigration activists say many who were arrested were students.

"This is where the people I love are, so this is where I'm going to stay," said Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta-Carrasco, protester.

Unzueta-Carrasco and other members of the Immigration Youth Justice League now face charges and deportation.

"They're hardworking people, and they came to this country just to provide or to have a better life for me and my sisters. And there's no reason why, you know, things like that, noncriminal offenses, can lead to them losing all of that and the life that they built here," said one woman who did not want to be identified.

In all, 10 protesters were arrested -- eight with blocking the roadway and "mob action," The other two were charged with disorderly conduct and battery to a police officer after resisting arrest.

Some of those arrested are students who could potentially qualify for the federal Dream Act if it passes, a program that could allow undocumented students or military members to qualify for citizenship.

All of the those who were arrested have been released. They are out on bond and have court dates in September.

Some said they were trying to get arrested during the protest.

"The programs are not working for our families," said protester Adriana Salgado.

Salgado was among the protestors police arrested for blocking the intersection of Des Plaines and Washington during the height of the evening rush hour. Immigration rights activists formed a human chain and held banners and chanted. Some of them even sat in the middle of the intersection. It took place a during hearing on the Secure Communities Act.

"This is something we face every day. Putting ourselves in front of the street isn't that far off from the fears that the government makes you feel every day," said organizer Tania Unzueta.

The act gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to data from local and state police. Protesters say it has led to nearly a million deportations of people who have no criminal history.

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

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

Immigration and customs officials say that the program in question is designed to target dangerous criminals and send them back home and they insist that it is working.

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