Twelve undocumented youth locked arms, blocked traffic and were ultimately arrested in Chicago on Wednesday morning in an act of civil disobedience designed to protest the Obama administration's aggressive deportation policies.
Seated around a banner emblazoned with Obama campaign logos and the number 400,000—representing the number of people scheduled to be deported this year under a White House quota—the dozen activists formed a human chain, their arms linked inside plastic pipes, and sat down in the street outside the Chicago Hilton where the president in scheduled to attend a campaign fundraiser in the evening.
"Undocumented ... Unafraid!" the protesters chanted as law enforcement began to gather.
“Plans and promises of immigration reform are not enough," said 22-year-old Stephanie Camba, one of the undocumented protestors explaining her action. "While Congress is talking about passing immigration reform, I’m scared that my own parents will be one of the 1,100 who are deported every day. The President can’t be a bystander in reform when he could stop our suffering and stop deportations with the stroke of a pen.”
Some of the undocumented immigrants at the protest were beneficaries of a new directive by the Obama administration last year, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed adults who were brought into the country without documentation in their youth to avoid deportation and receive at least temporary legal status. Despite the protections offered by DACA, those protesting on Wednesday argue that the administration's aggressive deportation scheme leaves many of their family and community members still vulnerable to detention and expulsion.
As another protester, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, aged 26, said in a statement, “It doesn’t make sense to keep deporting people that could qualify for immigration reform. We want our families to still be here when a path to citizenship opens. We’re calling on the President to give our parents and everyone in our community the same relief he gave us.”
More than fifty people participated in the protest, organized by a coalition of undocumented youth organization in the state, including Undocumented Illinois, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, the Latino Youth Action League of DuPage, but only twelve were members of the human chain that were ultimately arrested.
Eight female and four male protesters were taken into custody a little after 9:45 a.m., the Chicago Tribune reported. The dozen activists were expected to be charged with reckless conduct, obstructing or resisting the actions of a police officer, and obstructing a roadway, all misdemeanors, the paper's report said.
The Chicagoist put together this Storify thread of the protests: