Hundreds of Chicagoans protest ICE in downtown march


Eric Henry

A protester raises the Flag of Mexico/ / Un manifestante alza la bandera de México

Hundreds of Chicagoans gathered Friday at Daley Plaza to protest the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Protesters marched, winding through the streets of downtown, all the way to the Federal Building that houses Chicago’s ICE center.

The protest comes four days after ICE released a new policy ending online class exemptions for international students on F-1 and M-1 visas.

Slated to kick off at 3 p.m., the protest coincided with another march advocating for the Oromo community — the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. 

Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Ethiopian singer and former political prisoner of five years, was shot dead July 29. The 34-year-old Oromo icon’s murder ignited widespread unrest in the country, resulting in over 166 people being killed.

The ICE protest and the Oromo march briefly combined from 3:20 to just before 4:00 p.m. Then, organizers started ushering the crowd onto Clark street, where they marched through downtown chanting, “No justice, no peace!” and “Chinga la migra!” (“F**k Border Patrol” in English) and eventually stopping in front of the Federal Building. Once there, the crowd erupted into a rapid-fire chant of, “F**k ICE, f**k ICE!”

“These [international students] are just trying to better themselves, make this a better place,” said Bee Hernandez, whose cousin is a DePaul student. “And now they have to go back unless they transfer? It’s so f**ked up.”

Protest organizer Getty Kasole — a Congolese immigrant and former green-card engineering student — said international students tend to cloister together and ignore everything but their studies.

“We don’t really care about U.S. politics,” Kasole said, “but I think now a lot of international college students that usually don’t care about politics realize that it does affect them. Just because you’re not from the U.S. you can’t just overlook people getting mistreated.”

Kasole said she believes ICE’s new policy will unify people, many of whom likely avoided political activism in the past.

“The politics of America, it actually does affect them,” she said, “and if they don’t raise their voices, [ICE is] gonna come for them next.”

Damita Menezes, 20, a senior at DePaul University, is an Indian international student who arrived three years ago in pursuit of a better education and world view experience.

She said if universities are forced to go completely online in the Fall she  will have to leave the country overnight. 

 “[I would have to] abandon my lease, abandon my education, abandon the life I’ve made here so far. There is no certainty provided by this new directive and it is very cruel,” she said. 

Menezes wants the public to better educate themselves on the struggles international students have to face to better understand the similar ambitions found with any other student studying in the United States. 

“They need to be kind to the legal immigrants and international students of this country. International students invest a lot from their tuition into this country,” she said. “We just want a better life without shaky grounds.”

Carol Hughes, Executive Director of News and Integrated Content at DePaul University, said at this time the university is working on a solution that will allow international students to meet the new requirement established by ICE. 

“Given the number of students affected, the solution requires collaboration between Academic Affairs, Information Services, the University Registrar, and the Colleges. International students with questions are encouraged to contact their ISS Advisor,” Hughes said.

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  • Protesters listening to speakers outside of Chicago’s immigration and Customs Enforcement center on July 10, 2020. // Manifestantes escuchan a oradores fuera del Centro de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de Chicago el 10 de julio de 2020.

  • Protest volunteer marshals form a socially distanced human chain on Ida B. Wells Drive to guide demonstrators towards Chicago’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Center on July 10, 2020.

  • Protesters listening to speakers outside of Chicago’s immigration and Customs Enforcement center on July 10, 2020

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According to DePaul’s International Admissions,  the university currently serves students from over 104 countries. 

College Factual 2018 report states about 1,499 international students attended DePaul. With a majority of the students studying from China, India and Saudi Arabia. 

Menezes said universities adapting to the ICE directive to protect students is not enough and need to carry out further measures. 

“Universities need to sue. Protect us from future restrictions,” Menezes said. “As an international student my college experience is very different from the average American college experience. I am encouraged to work five times harder because of the restrictions of being an international student in this country. I have to balance an academic life, establish a career, all while learning a whole new culture away from any of my kin. But this is what I signed up for and I didn’t question my decision even for once.”


UPDATE (7/12/2020): This story has been updated to include additional comments and quotations.