Thousands of marchers took to the streets of Chicago Saturday in a continued call for immigration reform and an end to deportations.
A conglomeration of labor groups, community organizations and faith leaders organized the march, which stepped off about 1:30 p.m. Saturday from Teamster City, 1645 W. Jackson Blvd. The march, which organizers said numbered between 5,000 and 6,000 people, traveled east on Jackson to Dearborn Street and then north to the Daley Center plaza for a planned rally.
Flanked by police officers as they moved along Jackson, marchers chanted, banged drums and blew horns. Some held signs reading, “stop deportations,” or “tear down the wall.”
“I thought I was a citizen because this is all I know,” said Nestor Rivera, 22, a Chicago resident who said he came to this country when he was only one year old. Rivera said he has tried to become a citizen since high school, but the process has been arduous.
“It gives me hope,” he said of Saturday’s march. “Things like this are getting to the government.”
Next to Rivera, DeKalb resident Olivia Segura, 45, held a sign asking for help keeping her family together in the wake of her daughter’s death while serving in the Illinois National Guard. After her daughter, Spc. Ashley Sietsema, died driving an ambulance in Kuwait in 2007, Segura said her husband fell into a spiral of substance abuse that resulted in arrests for DUI and cocaine possession. While Segura said she is a U.S. citizen, her husband was attempting to gain citizenship before his criminal record left him in jeopardy of deportation.
“The crime doesn’t fit the punishment,” Segura said. “My husband is in limbo. He could be deported at any time.”
Later near the plaza’s famed Picasso sculpture, rally organizers and others took to a small stage and urged lawmakers — and specifically U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam from Illinois — to pass immigration reform and halt deportations.
“We need leaders like Illinois Congressman Peter Roskam to stop hiding and take action,” said Lesly Sandoval, 19, a Harold Washington College student who said most of her family members are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. “All I want is to see my parents get equal treatment and not looked down upon because they aren’t U.S. citizens,” she said. “Both my mom and dad deserve to be here because they work as hard as everyone else and they contribute to this country.”
More events are planned this month to ensure immigration reform remains on the minds of federal officials currently debating debt ceilings and government shutdowns.
“October is very crucial,” said Monica Trevino, spokeswoman for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We want to continue the pressure to ensure they do pass immigration reform.”