In November 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials raided the Chicago Pallet Company in Elk Grove Village, near northwest Chicago. Despite ICE officials’ claims that the raid was part of an investigation into money laundering by company officials, they entered the company warehouse and arrested 34 workers who did not hold executive positions, including some who did not speak any English. All 34 were entered into deportation proceedings.
Members and officials from churches and immigrant rights organizations, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission and Centro Sin Fronteras (now called La Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras) organized a rally after the arrest to release the 34 members of the raid from immigration detention and prevent their immediate deportation. Almost half of those arrested are fathers or grandfathers with families in the U.S. which would be destroyed if they were deported. On one hand, it was a relief when immigration detention bond was announced and relatives were able to post bond to see their loved ones and release them from detention. On the other hand, relatives were forced to post $2,000 to $10,000 for each victim of the raid, a significant amount for any family.
Attorney Chris Bergin and Roberto Lopez from Shiller*Preyar Law Offices and Robert Barrera and Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman from La Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras have been working to keep families together by attempting to prevent as many deportations as possible. In 2011, the Obama administration released a memo clarifying the concept of “prosecutorial discretion,” a process by which ICE can choose to administratively close cases for individuals deemed “low priority.” “Low priority” cases include individuals with strong family and community connections to the U.S., those who have stayed in the U.S. for long periods of time, and those who do not pose a threat to the community – like the workers at Chicago Pallet Company. Attorney Bergin and Reverend Coleman met with ICE officials, and ICE agreed to view the Chicago Pallet workers together as one group request for prosecutorial discretion, which increases the possibility that all will be able to stay in the United States. The strength of the cases being seen together rather than individually is a testament to the strength of a united community.
Attorney Bergin and legal interns John Antia and Nebula Li drafted 28 motions for prosecutorial discretion for all of the individuals who decided to be included in the group as well as a few others who decided to pursue individual cases, in addition to a cover letter to the Congressional Representative Luis Gutierrez and Senator Dick Durbin, who have offered to lend their support to the group. Thanks to the strong relationship between the community, Sin Fronteras, and Shiller*Preyar, Shiller Preyar Law Offices donated thousands of dollars of legal services to help keep immigrant families together!
Recently, Reverend Coleman handed over the group of 22 cases to the Offices of Congressman Gutierrez and Senator Durbin, who agreed to review them to write letters of support before submission of the motions for prosecutorial discretion to ICE. We’ll keep you posted on the final outcome of the Chicago Pallet Workers!