By Walid Sankari
Photo: Boston Globe
President Trump’s hardline rhetoric against immigration has already begun diffusing down to local communities far away from the border, as federal agents from US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted immigration raids along the “Little India” stretch of Devon Ave, among many other immigrant enclaves in Chicago.
ICE agents were reported to be conducting investigations and immigration checks at local business, prompting fear among locals who are unaccustomed to seeing federal agents patrolling their tight-knit community. Shabbir Patel, a community leader at Devon’s Jamia Masjid, told the Chicago Tribune that many families are now staying indoors and avoiding unnecessary excursions outside out of fear that their documentation may be rescinded or revoked.
Even as President Trump’s recent “Muslim Immigration Ban” has been ruled unconstitutional, the fear of these immigrants and refugees comes as federal immigration agents have arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants across the Midwest, including targeted raids last week in Chicago that have resulted in the arrests of 48 individuals.
The northside Chicago neighborhoods of Rogers Park Albany Park, and West Ridge are home to immigrant communities of South Asian, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and East African backgrounds; the tapestries of local houses of worship, small businesses, and service-based non-profit organizations that these communities have established form the spine of a diverse and thriving port of arrival for many new Chicagoans. Many refugees arriving in the Chicagoland area are resettled in these neighborhoods, finding the ethnic diversity and local support systems a more comfortable transition into American life.
However, increased federal scrutiny and demographic profiling have proven disruptive to these communities; local businessmen on Devon are claiming that they have seen a drop in foot-traffic and the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce reported to WTTW that such raids can have a discouraging effect on immigrant consumers.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, has remained committed to keeping Chicago a “Sanctuary City” for immigrants by defying federal immigration directives, establishing a multi-million dollar fund for immigration legal defense, and standing against Governor Rauner’s desire to stop the resettlement of refugees in Illinois. In Springfield, the Illinois State House has recently voted to approve HB0426, a bill that would establish “Immigrant Safe Zones," prohibiting law enforcement officials from investigating, detaining or arresting individuals in local houses of worship, schools, and hospitals without a warrant.
CIOGC is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as public officials to address immigration issues as they relate to the Chicagoland Muslim community.