ICE opens fire during a botched Chicago raid

March 31, 2017

Carlos Enriquez reports from Chicago on an ICE raid that nearly killed one man--and what this latest escalation means for defending sanctuary cities from the right.

THE TRUMP administration's reign of terror against immigrants came to Chicago's Northwest Side on March 27, when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent shot a man inside his home.

The incident occurred in the early morning hours when ICE showed up at a Belmont-Cragin neighborhood home to present an arrest warrant to a member of the household.

When 53-year-old Felix Torres Sr. heard pounding at the front door, he opened it. An ICE agent opened fire, shooting him in the arm. Torres was transported to Stroger Hospital and was listed in serious condition.

ICE officials claim that the agent opened fire after Torres pointed a gun at them, but family members said this was not just unlikely, but impossible.

"It's a lie when they say he was holding a gun," Torres' daughter Carmen told DNAInfo. "He doesn't even own a gun. They shot my dad. They shot him, and I don't know why."

Felix and Carmen were two of the eight people in the house at the time of the shooting, including a 9-year-old and a 5-month-old. According to Carmen, the agents stormed in, waving their pistols, and dragged the family out of the home without warning or even as much as a chance to dress and get milk for their baby. The family wasn't allowed to return afterward and had to seek assistance from other family members for food and shelter.

Family members and activists speak out against the shooting of Felix Torres Sr.
Family members and activists speak out against the shooting of Felix Torres Sr.

The Torres' attorney Thomas Hallock ">told the Chicago Tribune that there was no justification for the raid or the shooting. "[Torres] opened the door and, without cause, they shot him," Hallock said. "I don't know that they had a warrant, but they certainly made forced entry into the house."

Felix Torres, Jr.--Torres' 23-year-old son and, according to ICE, the target of the arrest warrant--was taken into custody while the family was at the police station after his father's shooting. He told Hallock that officials questioned him about the status of his citizenship, not about the shooting nor any previous violation.

Torres Sr. and his wife said that they are lawful, permanent residents and that their children were born in the U.S. and are citizens. "That's something that could've been determined and should've been determined before they went to this residence," Hallock said. "Worst-case scenario, they had entirely the wrong residence. Or maybe they just had bad intelligence, bad information. But it's all pretty strange."

"They're all citizens," Hallock said. "I just don't know yet why [ICE agents] were involved. We're still trying to figure out what really was going on here."

THERE ARE also questions about whether Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers played a role in assisting with the raid. CPD involvement would raise questions about Chicago's status as a sanctuary city and about official city policies that are supposed to limit cooperation between police and immigration authorities.

Chicago Alderman Carlos Rosa said in a statement:

ICE's guns-blazing raid on a Northwest Side home filled with sleeping kids is exactly why the City of Chicago should refuse to collaborate with ICE. ICE routinely violates the American people's constitutional rights. This guns-blazing ICE raid deepens my resolve to organize my community so we can keep each other safe from the threat posed by ICE.

Sanctuary cities have their roots in religious and radical organizing in the 1980s in solidarity with Central American refugees fleeing violence and despair in countries like Nicaragua, where U.S.-backed right-wing insurgents waged war on the left-wing Sandinista government.

But today's sanctuary cities have been under threat of attack since Donald Trump got into office. As recently as this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to pull federal funding from more than a hundred cities designated as sanctuary jurisdictions, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The Belmont-Cragin raid is only one of the efforts by Trump and ICE to undermine sanctuary policies and to crack down and intimidate those cities that refuse to coordinate with immigration enforcement agents.

Other crackdowns in sanctuary cities include a recent sweep in Portland, Oregon, during which three young immigrants who had protection under Barack Obama's 2012 executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were arrested and detained by ICE agents.

DACA granted relief from deportation threats to almost a million young undocumented immigrants, as well as work permits and the ability to obtain driver's licenses. But the latest assaults make it clear that the Trump administration has no respect for policies and protections won by the immigrant rights movement.

THE MOVEMENT needs to prioritize the defense of sanctuary spaces, but these attacks make it clear that our efforts need to be expanded beyond policies that immigration enforcement agencies can inhumanely ignore.

In Chicago, Democratic leaders such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have released statements saying they will continue to defend the city's status as a sanctuary space.

However, in recent years, it has become clear that the Democratic Party cannot be relied on to be allies for undocumented immigrants or reliable advocates for the immigration justice movement.

Obama earned the title of "Deporter-In-Chief" from activists by displacing over 2.5 million immigrants and increasing federal funding to structures such as ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by 300 percent for an enforcement-first approach to the question of immigration.

Obama's "Secure Communities" program made it possible to detain undocumented immigrants in record numbers by putting them on a pathway to deportation for committing minor offenses such as driving violations--and laid the groundwork for the Trump executive order to strike language deprioritizing the deportations of immigrants without a criminal history.

Then there was the Obama administration's shameful response to a surge of Central American refugees seeking asylum--many of them children, who were held in cruel detention centers only to then be sent back to the crisis that their families attempted to escape.

In essence, Obama and the Democratic Party built and outfitted the deportation machine that Trump and Sessions are now using to terrorize immigrants and refugees.

Since Trump's inauguration, many of the fears and anxieties about what a Trump presidency would mean for immigrants and refugees have become all too real with several executive orders, including those calling for the construction of a border wall, travel bans on Middle Eastern and Arab nations, the escalation of ICE raids and the threats to defund sanctuary cities.

Any real gains for the immigrant rights movement will have to come outside the political establishment which criminalizes and dehumanizes people based on their immigration status.

There are multiple calls for large protests and hopefully strikes on May Day to defend the rights of immigrants and to continue to show the Trump administration that its hateful and bigoted agenda has no mandate. These are the exact things we need to bring the movement forward.

In 2006, immigrant rights groups organized huge demonstrations on May Day in response to a draconian measure pushed by the Republican right to target undocumented immigrants. Washington woke up a sleeping giant, and a decade later, the potential for this is clear again.

By continuing to make connections between immigrant justice groups, labor unions, community organizations and a strong left dedicated to fighting all instances of oppression, we can make a loud call to stop deportations, strike down the travel bans and cease the terrorizing of immigrant communities.

It's only through solidarity that we can melt the ICE.

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