About 200 people attended an immigration town hall meeting at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center on July 2.
Hosted by the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPOE) with State Representatives Laura Fine (IL-09) and Robyn Gabel (IL-18), the event took place just two days after demonstrators converged on downtown Chicago in sweltering heat to oppose the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
The Evanston town hall speakers included 20-year incumbent Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), State Senator and candidate for Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and immigration attorney and candidate for State Senate Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (IL-17).
Congresswoman Schakowsky quoted Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, saying, “Every so often, history presents circumstances that test the soul of a nation. We are living in one of those moments.”
During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Rep. Schakowsky explained that under the Justice Department’s zero-tolerance policy, authorities are obligated to prosecute every misdemeanor border crossing, and that Americans should not be swayed by Trump’s recent executive order that says children and families will no longer be separated.
“Nothing in Trump’s executive order refers to the children currently separated from their parents,” said Rep. Schakowsky. She went on to say that even if the order keeps families together, it is “impossibly vague and totally unworkable.”
Rep. Schakowsky said the back-up in immigration courts is up to 700,000 cases, and the government is now trying to expand the 20-day limit on family detention guaranteed under federal law.
“How can this be consistent with due processes guaranteed under the Constitution?” said Rep. Schakowsky.
Rep. Schakowsky encouraged Democrats to think of “clever, big, loud ways to gain support from Republicans in Illinois. “We have to do more. I think that includes things like civil disobedience,” she said.
Rep. Schakowsky and and fellow Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, along with actor John Cusack, who grew up in Evanston and graduated from ETHS in 1984, expected to be arrested last month while demonstrating in Washington.
The demonstrators aimed to get arrested to spotlight the Trump administration policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the Mexican border.
However, they were left alone, even when they blocked the entrance to the Customs and Border patrol headquarters and blocked traffic near an entrance to the White House. Rep. Schakowsky said the Trump administration apparently wanted to avoid shedding light on the border crisis.
Democratic candidates Raoul and Gong-Gershowitz echoed Rep. Schakowsky’s sentiments that America is a nation of immigrants, and that those who seek asylum here should be granted due process.
“Asylum law is part of our immigration system. This notion that we don’t have a border process to vet immigrants is patently false,” said Ms. Gong-Gershowitz.
State Senator Raoul, who is the son of Haitian immigrants, said, “The conditions you endure to try and get here suggest that you really are seeking asylum.”
In what he referred to as the inhumane treatment of immigrants in America, Sen. Raoul said, “If there’s ever been a time you can put an exclamation mark on that, it was last week.”