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Chicago Immigrant Rights Activist Faces Deportation After Traffic Stop

Stephen Piggott • Mar 27, 2009

Rigo Padilla is a 21 year-old college student facing deportation after a traffic stop. Padilla was detained and interviewed by the public defender. After the public defender found out that Padilla was not a US citizen, he walked out of the interview. Minutes later Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived. After an interrogation he was transferred to a federal prison where he was interrogated again.

Once in federal prison, Padilla was offered the choice of paying a bond or wearing a tracking bracelet. The latter being described as a privilege by ICE officials for Padilla’s clean record up to that point. All of this is of course 100% illegal.

Everyone has the right to be represented by the public defender whether they are a citizen or not. When I was arrested less than a year ago I was given the option to be represented by the public defender even though I myself am not a US citizen. Mr. Padilla’s arrest and transportation to a federal prison is in violation of an executive order by former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington which states that city employees cannot enforce federal immigration laws. This law was passed in 2006 by the Chicago City Counsel as the Sanctuary for Undocumented Immigrants City Ordinance.

Here is a statement from Mr. Padilla describing his ordeal:

Once I spoke to the immigration [ICE] person at [Cook County Jail], they put an immigration hold onto my account, which meant that I would not be released until ICE was given 48 hours to pick me up. ICE always comes to pick up people.

I was not aware of this until my lawyer came in and told me that paying bond would not guarantee I would be released. I was picked up within a day after my bond was paid and transferred to immigration. During the transfer, the driver [for ICE] encouraged everyone to just sign the letter of deportation, and said that that was the best thing for us.

It is obvious that just because Mr. Padilla is Latino he was treated differently. As reported before on this blog Chicago is no stranger to racial profiling of Latino youth. During my arrest, I was deliberately targeted because I was wearing a Mexican soccer jersey. My friend was hit in the back with a knife stick simply because he was wearing a t-shirt with the words “Sector Latino.” When I tried to defend him I was beaten and arrested for “battery.” Both my and I are friend are white immigrants from Europe but the security guards were so ignorant and hell bent on hurting some Latinos they overlooked this.

Mr. Padilla now faces immigration hearings in April where if found guilty he could face deportation to Mexico, a country he has not been to in 15 years. The saddest part of this whole ordeal is that Mr. Padilla is a person who is making a difference in his community. Mr. Padilla attends Harold Washington College where he is the president of the Organization of Latin American Students. Mr. Padilla is an immigrant rights activist who is far from a drain on society. It is very easy for law enforcement agents to paint undocumented immigrants as criminals but this is far from true. Rigo Padilla came to this country with his family to have a better life and is making a difference in his community. Banishing him for life from the United States for one traffic stop is not only illegal but it is immoral.

To find out more information on Rigo Padilla email [email protected]

You can also sign a petition in support of Rigo Padilla at http://www.petitiononline.com/helprigo/petition.html

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