Democratic Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez visited the regional offices of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement in Chicago for a meeting to discuss Trump administration’s recent crackdown on deportations.
However, instead of providing Gutierrez and his team — which included fellow lawmakers, activists and immigration lawyers — with satisfactory answers, the authorities escorted them out of the building in handcuffs.
Gutierrez was seeking answers about “specific cases and ICE's general conduct” along with how the agency planned to enforce immigration laws on whether it would target the young undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. under Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
When he did not get the information, he and seven of his team members decided to stage a sit in until the officials could assure them.
The protest lasted four hours.
“They were asking about specific cases and about the general conduct of ICE and deportations,” Gutierrez's spokesperson Douglas Rivlin explained during a news conference. “The congressman has decided that he did not get the answers he was looking for from the ICE regional director and he’s going to be staying inside until he gets answers, even if that means risking arrest.”
“The congressman said this is reprehensible that immigrants are being treated this way, that the rules are changed without any information or notice, that low priorities for deportation are being removed from the country and the congressman wants to get answers from the staff here, and he has not been getting any answers,” Rivlin continued. “They need to call Washington, they need to call the White House.”
Among other cases, the Democratic lawmaker wanted to discuss the case of Francisca Lino, a woman is facing deportation in July despite the fact her husband and children are all U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, ICE officials said they issued three warnings to Gutierrez and the group of activists, advising them to leave the premises or be arrested.
“During this meeting, ERO Chicago officials responded to the Congressman's requests for information," the agency said in a statement. “However, when the Congressman sought actions and assurances that ICE officials couldn't provide, he and other meeting attendees staged a sit-in and refused to leave the ERO office at the conclusion of the meeting.”
“They threatened us with arrest. We said ‘We're ready to go to jail,’” Gutierrez told reporters after ending the protest. “We stood up to the bullies here...Unfortunately, tonight and tomorrow they will continue to prey on very vulnerable, defenseless people in their homes in the darkness of the night.”
He further told CNN’s Erin Burnett the government is lying when it says the ICE is going after criminals and the “bad people” in the immigrant community.
“The fact is, they're going after DREAMers,” he continued. “Somebody has to stand up for them ... they are under threat. When you see unfairness and unjustness ... it's part of what being an American is, is to stand up.”