CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – Disheartened by United States senators, who failed to keep their promise to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill before the Holy Week, a dozen grassroots activists marched in front of the federal building in downtown Chicago, Illinois, housing the offices of Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), and held an Immigration Prayer Vigil and Civil Disobedience last Thursday by blocking South Dearborn Street in Downtown Chicago, Illinois before getting arrested for violating traffic rules.
Filipino American Lawrence Benito, chief executive officer of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and one of those arrested, said, “We are here today because the Senate failed to produce a bill. We are calling on the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and other officials to put forward a bill.
“The cost of their inaction is 1,100 families are being deported today and tomorrow, 20,000 families in 18 days. We know what is at stake, especially the Asian community. They eliminate family visas. We need to stand up. We need to fight. We need to let our elected officials know that this is not right. This is not just. We ask the people to contact senators and congressmen, to say we need an immigration that is inclusive.”
Another Filipino American, Kristin Tendilla, who was also arrested, said, “We were arrested for blocking the flow of traffic. I have never been arrested. But today is an exception because this (arrest) is for immigration rights; for making sure family and diversity visas are included in the CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) bill, which will specially affect my family and my community.
“My father was in the U.S. Navy. He came here and raised a family. But he wants to reunite with his siblings. Filipinos have the longest wait. His siblings have waited for 20 years but two of them had already died. His last sibling is still waiting until now and still has no family visa.
“I FEEL ROBBED ABOUT MY FATHER”
“I feel robbed about my father. It’s not right. That’s why I let myself be arrested to make sure (my protest is heard).
“What affects my father breaks my heart because he considers his siblings a family.”
Tendilla, a volunteer of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), said she will be due in court on April 16 for the traffic citation she received.
One of the Chicago police officers, who arrested Tendilla, Benito and others, said “there is no imprisonment if those arrested are found guilty. But they are going to pay fines.”
A few weeks ago, some of the Gang of Eight of U.S. Senators vowed to come up with bill before Holy Week but it did not happen. Aside from Senator Durbin, the other members of the Gang of Eight are Senators Robert Menendez [D-NJ], Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.], Michael Bennet [D-Colo.], Marco Rubio [R-FL], Jeff Flake [R-ARIZ.], John McCain [R-ARIZ.] and Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.].
Before Holy Week, it was reported that Senator Lindsey Graham is to restrict issuance of family-based visas and broaden the employment-based visas, which is hurting “Africans and Asians.”
The activists led by ICIRR are appealing to Senator Mark Kirk to denounce the statements of Senator Graham and tell Republicans to stop hurting Asian and African families.
They urged Senator Durbin to “fight like a tiger to produce legislation that keeps families together and does not punish Asians and Africans!”
Among those who attended the Immigration Vigil Rally and Civil Disobedience, and who got arrested, were Alderman Danny Solis (25th Ward); Alderman Joe Moreno (lst Ward); diverse community leaders Tuyet Le, Executive Director of Asian American Institute; Alie Kabba, Executive Director of United African Organization; Kristina Tendilla, Organizer of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE); Celena Roldan, Executive Director of Erie Neighborhood House; Pastor Freddy Santiago of Iglesia Rebano Companerismo Cristiano; Dr. Zaher Sahoul, Board Member of Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago; Jeff Bartow, Executive Director of Southwest Organizing Project; Tanya Cabrera, Associate Director of Minority Outreach at Illinois Institute of Technology; Lawrence Benito, CEO, ICIRR, and Joshua Hoyt, Chief Strategy Executive of ICIRR.
Among the Filipino American volunteer members of AFIRE, Connie Triggiano has been waiting to be reunited with her son in the Philippines “for years and years.” Her family would be negatively impacted by the decision to restrict family visas. “I am angry, anxious, and overwhelmed with urgency to stand up for Connie, her family, my family, and all immigrant families who will be threatened by this bill,” Tendilla said.
PHOTO CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
UNDER ARREST, FALL IN LINE:
Those placed under arrest fall in line before they were to be processed inside 230 South Dearborn Street, housing the District Offices of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) last Thursday. Among those in photo from left are Lawrence Benito, CEO, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Celena Roldan of Erie Neighborhood House, Kristina Tindella of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment, an unidentified, and Dr. Zaher Sahloul of Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. The grassroots members led by ICIRR held civil disobedience event by blocking traffic to urge Congress to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which could block the government from deporting 1,100 undocumented immigrants everyday. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)
Filipino American Kristina Tindella, organizer of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), flashes her arrest ticket after joining a group of grassroots activists led by Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which is urging Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that will not break families apart. It was reported that the planned legislation is restricting family visas while increasing employee-based visas to stimulate the economy. The group is rejecting the family visa restrictions. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)
VOLUNTEERS ARRESTED TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER:
Filipino American Lawrence Benito (second from left) of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant joins his colleagues who were arrested last Thursday during their Immigration Vigil and Civil Disobedience that caused their arrest for blocking South Dearborn in Downtown Chicago, Illinois. They want U.S. Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Looking on from left are Dr. Zaher Sahloul of Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno and Celena Roldan of Erie Neighborhood House. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)