Immigration activists headed for trial

by Jamie Anne Royce

Six youth immigration activists, arrested while protesting an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secure Communities public hearing, face a bench trial March 20.

Through Secure Communities, when someone is arrested, that person's biometric information (fingerprints) is checked against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. If there is a match, ICE is notified and takes action.

DHS hosted a series of public hearings across the country on Secure Communities to gain feedback from the people. During the Chicago hearing in August, members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), Nuestra Voz and the Latin@ Youth Action League (LYAL) shared their opinions on the program and called for attendees to walk out.

After leaving the meeting, six undocumented immigrants—Fanny Lopez-Martinez, Jorge Mena, Arianna Salgado, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, Carla Navoa and Miguel Martinez—formed a circle on West Washington Street, blocking traffic. Police removed them from the street several times before the activists sat in an entrance to the I-94 expressway. Police asked them to move, and upon refusing, the activists were arrested.

Mena and Unzueta Carrasco have been named Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honorees for their work on LGBT undocumented immigrant rights.

The activists were scheduled for a bench trial March 2, but Judge Peggy Chiampas granted prosecutors a continuance because two police officers set to testify were not in court due to deaths in their families. Prosecutors also added an additional charge of reckless conduct to the mob action and obstruction of traffic charges the activists are already facing.

The activists are now looking at a sixth court date, with a trial set for March 20.

"I feel really frustrated. It seems like the city and state are really messy, really sloppy," said Mena. "We've been ready to testify, but prosecutors keep asking for a continuance. It's just taking up a lot of time."

The defendants will rely on the "necessity defense," an argument anti-war activists spearheaded in the 1980s. To successfully argue this defense, they must prove the protest action is directly connected with the laws being protested.

Immigration activists headed for trial - 56 - Windy City Times