Heavily armed officers from several federal agencies locked down a strip mall in a fraudulent-document bust Tuesday, scaring residents and triggering an angry rally at one of Little Village's busiest intersections that lasted into the evening.One of the stores in the mall was "Foto Munoz", run by the father of Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd). He wasn't arrested but a camera was taken into custody.
"Soldiers bombarded our neighborhood," said Baltazar Enriquez, 30, a lifelong Little Village resident. "It looked like they were marching into Iraq."
The raid was part of a probe of identification fraud, according to the U.S. attorney's office. "It's an ICE-led investigation; we're assisting them," said FBI spokesman Ross Rice, speaking of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Agents were carrying out a search warrant, he said. The target was sellers of phony Social Security and green cards, authorities said. Although there were a few arrests, U.S. attorney's officials and ICE refused to provide a number.Rafael Romo of CBS 2 Chicago says:
As word of the raid spread, a crowd of about 250 gathered in the intersection at Albany and 26th as activists exhorted the crowd to take the day's events as reason to join a May 1 march. Trying to cool residents' heated tempers, the Rev. Brandon Curran of St. Pius the Fifth Catholic Church in Pilsen led a prayer in the middle of the street.
Anger, frustration and, ultimately, solidarity spilled into the streets of Little Village Tuesday afternoon. Chicago police only showed up after residents flooded 26th Stree and Albany Avenue. Participants held signs that said things like "no one is illegal."Note that a couple photos for that report were provided by Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
..."Selling illegal papers to immigrants so we can work, basically. That's all we buy them for, is to work," said Little Village resident Luz Nolasco. "But apparently that's against the law and God forbid we help America!"
..."It's a show of force. We believe it was done to intimidate this community. We can't see it any other way," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th). "The number of people involved in this operation is just overwhelming."
..."It was way overkill. They had machine guns, shotguns, bullet-proof vests. It was a huge, huge endeavor," [Ald. Ricardo Munoz] said. "They struck fear into the heart of the Little Village community.
The agents on hand Tuesday included FBI and immigrations officers who had search warrants for an alleged fake ID documentation organization. According to sources, a wide range of fraudulent documents were allegedly being made and distributed at the mall. But protesters say there was no reason to frighten the entire community over it.
"We are not here to stop anybody from enforcing the law. But there is common sense into this thing. Why do it in such a public way as to intimidate the people here in this community?" said Alderman George Cardenas, 12th Ward...
..."They just did a mass intimidation. They made us believe out here that they were arresting everybody that was here, but they came in with the intention to stop people from marching on May 1. They haven't done this like this from when I can remember. It's clear to us what their intentions are," said Roberto Lopez, Centro Sin Fronteras...
..."People are calling about their families and want to know what's happening," said Diego Bonesatti, a spokesman for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
He said the organization strongly opposes the timing and manner of the investigation, noting that a week of activities in support of immigration reform is planned nationwide, including citizenship workshops, community meetings and marches planned for May 1.
Immigration2007a · Wed, 04/25/2007 - 10:40 · Importance: 4