Going door-to-door: protecting Albany Park residents against immigration raids

OCAD Training Session
Volunteers crowd the training session at the Centro Autónomo. (Marisa Endicott/MEDILL)

By Marisa Endicott

Almost 70 people chose to spend Saturday’s wet and dreary afternoon walking door-to-door in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

Volunteers turned out in response to the deportation campaign launched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that targets recent Central American immigrants with deportation orders. Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) held the door-knocking campaign to inform residents of their rights and how to protect themselves in the case of a raid.

“When you turn on the TV at night – like especially the Spanish news – it’s all about raids. You just see the fear people are having,” said Lynda Lopez, a member of Grassroots Illinois Action and other activist organizations. “So I decided that it would be good for me to at least give a few hours to give people some information.”

This is the second such event OCAD has held in Albany Park, home to large Hispanic and immigrant populations. The first focused on informing businesses, but this time the focus was on residents and building relationships with the community.

Volunteers overflowed a second-floor room of the Centro Autónomo community center for a short training session before heading out. People from a range of organizations, ethnicities, neighborhoods and ages crowded together. Mothers held babies, and young children sat on the floor. Each took turns introducing themselves and explaining their motivations.

“I’m from the city, and I come from a working family, and my parents are also immigrants,” Lopez said. “West Humboldt Park is where I grew up…I think you just become interested seeing how these issues affect your community.”

One volunteer team divvies up handout materials and block assignments.
One volunteer team divvies up handout materials and block assignments. (Marisa Endicott/MEDILL)

Gabriela Benitez, an OCAD member, led the presentation in Spanish with bilingual volunteers translating for those who didn’t understand. She covered the door-knocking basics – language barriers, what to do with aggressive pets or people, engaging without lingering – but focused on conveying the message and the purpose of the campaign.

It is most important to listen, Benitez said. Are they scared? Have they heard of raids? There may be other issues happening in Albany Park that we aren’t even aware of, she explained.

As far as arming residents with the information to protect themselves, the message boiled down to three concise points provided to volunteers on a handout.

Que es lo que la comunidad debe saber:
1. Si agentes de inmigración o la policía vienen a su casa, usted tiene el derecho a no abrir la puerta. Muchos de estos agentes toman el abrir la puerta como consentimiento para entrar al apartamento. Esto puede resultar en múltiples arrestos o en registros ilegales de su casa. No abra la puerta.
2. No conteste preguntas sobre su país de origen o estatus migratorio. Usted no tiene que contestar preguntas. Se es detenido/a, haga claro que no contesta ninguna pregunta ni firmará nada sin la presencia de su abogado/a. Todxs tenemos el derecho a permanecer en silencio, sin importar nuestro estatus migratorio.
3. Es importante que la communidad esté organizada y sepamos responder juntos a este tipo de situaciones. Lxs invitamos a que nos acompañe a un foro comunitario y clínica legal el 16 de enero a las 11 en el Centro Autónomo, 3460 W. Lawrence. Reporte actividad de inmigración en la comunidad y si tiene alguna pregunta no se quede con la duda, llama a nuesta línea de apoyo (855) 435-7693.

What does the community need to know:
1. If immigration agents or the police come to your house, you have the right not to open the door. Many of these agents will take opening the door as consent to enter the apartment. This can result in multiple arrests or in an illegal search of your house. Do not open the door.
2. Don’t answer questions about your country of origin or your immigration status. You don’t have to answer questions. If you are detained, make it clear that you won’t answer any questions or sign anything without the presence of your lawyer. We all have the right to remain silent, regardless of our immigration status.
3. It is important that the community is organized and knows how to respond together to this type of situation. We invite you to attend a workshop and legal clinic January 16 at 11 am at the Centro Autónomo, 3460 W. Lawrence. To report immigration activity in the community and if you have any questions, call our helpline (855) 435-7693.

After a mock door-knocking exercise in which Benitez teasingly gave volunteers a hard time as a would-be resident, OCAD members assigned designated patrol areas highlighted in pink on neighborhood maps to groups of four.

Canvassers headed out with arms full of flyers and information sheets, and a script and form for logging information and commentary.

There were many unanswered doors, but volunteers were undeterred, joking and comparing door-knocking strategies from past campaigns. Residents who answered showed genuine interest and took the material. Most knew someone who would benefit even if it wasn’t applicable to themselves.

People on the street were grateful, too, and even stopped in the rain to look over the flyers and ask questions. A man from El Salvador was especially interested in the legal workshops. Lawyers are so expensive, he said.

Another man was less enthusiastic and said grimly as he took the handouts: “It’s too late ‘cause my cousin was already deported.”

Posting immigration advisories
Scott Jaburek posts a raid advisory with helpline information in an Albany Park eatery. (Marisa Endicott/MEDILL)

“It’s ridiculous that there is kind of a double standard about who is a worthy asylum seeker or not,” said Scott Jaburek, another volunteer who works for a union. “People that are coming here fleeing from central America aren’t viewed as refugees. They’re viewed as undocumented immigrants.”

Volunteers reconvened, wet but encouraged, to debrief and share their experiences. Some had heard rumors of raids, and many reported encountering fear such as families sending their kids to answer the door. One group said they spoke with a child for several minutes before an adult joined.

forms, maps and handouts
Volunteers debrief and sign up for the OCAD mailing list. (Marisa Endicott/MEDILL)

People are panicked, Benitez said. The goal is to intervene in that panic by sharing this educational “know your rights” information, she said, but also to let “people know that there are organizations out there helping.”

Before going their separate ways, volunteers ended on a call-and-response chant of “si, se puede.”

Photo at top: Volunteers crowd the training session at the Centro Autónomo. (Marisa Endicott/MEDILL)