Activist takes “sanctuary” from ICE in Chicago

At a press conference on Jan. 28 at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, activist Flor Cris贸stomo announced she would not comply with her deportation set for that date, and would instead go into sanctuary at the church. “I’m not going. I’ve asked my pastor and my church for sanctuary and they have granted it.” US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement that Cris贸stomo had been granted “voluntary departure” by an immigration judge, requiring her to leave the US no later than Jan. 28. Cris贸stomo said she is not “defying the laws of this country and I’m not hiding. I am taking the position of civil disobedience to press this government to act, to fix the broken laws and end this inhumane system of cheap undocumented labor and exploitation.” Church pastor Walter Coleman noted that “the forces that bring people here are still there. The Free Trade Treaty has destroyed agriculture in Mexico and other countries and until it is renegotiated people will keep coming.” (Diario Hoy, Jan. 29)

Cris贸stomo, an immigrant from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, was one of 26 Chicago employees of the IFCO Systems pallet company arrested in an immigration raid on Apr. 19, 2006. She is a single mother who has been working without papers in the US since 2000 and sending money back weekly to Mexico to support her three children, her sister and her mother. Cris贸stomo said she plans to continue supporting her family by making crafts and selling them at the church. She explained that with her act of resistance she seeks to draw attention to the injustice of US immigration laws. “I know I have nothing to gain [from taking sanctuary], I don’t have US citizen children and it’s certain that they’re going to deport me,” said Cris贸stomo. (Univision Online y Agencias, Jan. 29; Statement by Flor Cris贸stomo, Jan. 28; Press Release from Adalberto United Methodist Church & Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras, Jan. 28)

Cris贸stomo is heading a campaign called “America open your eyes,” which seeks to educate people about how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced Mexicans to migrate to the US. “I don’t have to be an academic to know what NAFTA is and how it has divided Mexico and millions of families. I’m here because of that. We have to show the US people that it’s not we immigrants who are guilty of all the problems, and how the international treaties are hurting our countries of origin,” said Cris贸stomo. (Univision Online y Agencias, Jan. 29)

The Adalberto United Methodist Church is the same church where Cris贸stomo’s friend and fellow activist Elvira Arellano took sanctuary from Aug. 15, 2006 to Aug. 15, 2007. Cris贸stomo and Arellano carried out a hunger strike from May 10 to June 1, 2006, demanding a moratorium on deportations.

From Immigration News Briefs, Feb. 10

See our last post on the politics of immigration.