[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast week, Twitter saw a spike in the use of the hashtag #Not1More, which had users calling for the end of deportations and the detention of immigrants in the U.S. However, the movement that began online spilled to the streets of downtown Chicago, heralding protesters and activists calling for an end to all deportations.
Just on Congress Parkway and Clark Street, dozens of demonstrators wielded signs while surrounded by television cameras. They stood outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices, listening to past detainees recount their experiences.
Arnulfo Mercado was one of the speakers. “They identified themselves as police officers,” Mercado said in Spanish. “They handcuffed me in front of my family,” he continued, “and they took me outside in the winter, while I was only wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.”
“But the worst part was being detained,” said Mercado. “They treat us like animals—bound by our hands and feet.” The middle-aged Mercado stood with his young daughter, describing the treatment he received while in custody. “The food they give, they call it food just to say that they feed us, but it is not food.”
“My story is just one of many. I don’t want to hear any other stories like mine,“ he added.
Unfortunately for Mercado, stories like his persist, not just with adult migrants, but their children as well.
Maria Mejia also attended the demonstration with her two children, Oliver, 12, and Miley, 9. The children looked like twins in their matching blue hoodies.
“For four days, we were detained. We were captured,” said Mejia to EXTRA. She explained that ICE agents did not make any exceptions based on age.
“We were cold; we were hungry. They treated them like they treated me. It was a very sad time. I never expected this sort of thing to happen to us,” she said.
Irene Romulo, a member of Organized Communities against Deportation, said that her organization gets people like this all the time. “A lot of them hear about us through word of mouth.”
Romulo also explained the goals of gathering former detainees and protesters that day. “We’re calling for action,” she said. “We know President Obama and the administration have the power to close down detention centers and that’s what we’re calling for.”
For Romulo, as well as millions of others, immigration isn’t just a personal issue, but one that affects the oncoming political landscape.
The topic has received a spike in national interest since Donald Trump’s announcement of his bid for the White House. In his announcement speech, Trump called illegal Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and claimed they brought drugs and crime into to the U.S.
With the 2016 election approaching, other Republican hopefuls have distanced themselves from Trump’s comments. Other candidates such as Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are calling for immigration reform, while still opposing amnesty.
Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both have decried Trump’s comments, calling them “appalling.”
Currently, Obama has the most deportations on record for any presidency, over an estimated 2 million. Recent executive action ordering the delay for deportation is currently being challenged in courts.
This post is also available in: Spanish