CHICAGO - Since 2008, the Obama administration has deported almost 2 million people, more than during any other presidency. Every March for the past four years, the undocumented community and their allies in Chicago and around the country have gathered to say "Not one more." National Coming Out of the Shadows Day began in Chicago March 10, 2010, when youth gathered at Federal Plaza downtown, in front of the immigration and federal office building to declare themselves undocumented and unafraid.
This year, the March 8 demonstration began with a performance by Elephant Rebellion, followed by speakers from the undocumented community, including Anibal Fuentes, a father who, with the support of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, has been fighting deportation. Anibal recently won a six-month stay of deportation, but still fears being torn from his wife and infant son when that stay expires. "I never thought it was immigration. Their vests said 'Police'," Fuentes said of the raid on his apartment building that resulted in his detention. The same building has been raided four times by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Anibal has no criminal record, and fears returning to Guatemala, where his father was kidnapped four times before he died.
Another speaker, Marcela Espinoza, an undocumented queer activist, recently returned to Chicago as a part of the the National Immigrant Youth Alliance's Bring Them Home Campaign after a decade apart from her family, who came to Chicago when she was only six. After spending most of her life here and completing high school, Marcela returned to Mexico to care for her ailing grandmother, unsure if she would ever be able to return home to the rest of her family because of her lack of immigration papers. She described visits from her family and the pain and hopelessness she felt having to leave them at the airport when they returned home to Chicago. She said she didn't know how to deal with her situation.
Sara Briseño, an undocumented student activist, talked about suicidal tendencies brought on by the incredible stress these out-of-control deportation practices put on families. Mother of four Lourdes Moreno Carrero, who is facing deportation, told of her imprisonment and her desire only to give her children a good education.
Maria Paz described her husband's arrest and the deplorable conditions of his 30-day imprisonment: moldy food and the constant fear of solitary confinement. She was given only two minutes, with absolutely no physical contact, to say goodbye to her husband before he was forced to leave the country.
Maria Sanchez spoke of her son Octavio's seven-month detention before he was deported last November.
Maria Paz scolded President Obama for his broken promises on immigration reform. Despite vows to only focus on deporting people with criminal records, people like Anibal Fuentes are being torn from their families every day. More and more people are coming out of the shadows of fear to bring attention to the unprecedented number of deportations, inexcusable detention conditions, and most importantly, the countless families being being torn apart because of these practices.
Photo: Lourdes Moreno Carrero speaks at National Coming Out of the Shadows Day rally at Chicago's Federal Plaza, March 8, 2014. Immigrant Youth Justice League Facebook page