More than 200 people demonstrated outside a Champaign hotel Saturday, where they believe federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stay when working on cases in Champaign County.
The demonstrators marched, chanted and carried signs outside the Drury Inn and Suites on North Prospect Avenue.
The News-Gazette reports that staff at the hotel would not confirm if I.C.E agents operate out of the hotel, but did say they offer a government discount to state and federal government employees.
A speaker at the demonstration, University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, called for a boycott of the Drury Inn and Suites, as long as they hosted I.C.E. agents.
But the demonstrators’ main target was I.C.E. itself, which was named in several protest signs. They ranged from pre-printed signs carrying the name of the ANSWER Coalition and saying “Shut Down I.C.E. Now!” to the homemade variety, with messages like “Locking Up and Caging Families is as Cold as I.C.E.”
Brian Dolinar, who helped organize the demonstration for the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, estimates there are 7,000 to 11,000 undocumented immigrants in Champaign County, mostly from Mexico and the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. He says they’re employed in a variety of jobs from kitchen work to erecting fences. But Dolinar says they live in fear because of a series of arrests made by I.C.E. agents coming to the the community.
“People didn’t go to work today, because they thought that I.C.E might be in town because this rally was taking place against I.C.E,” said Dolinar. “Simply rumors of ICE being here is creating a great amount of panic in the community.”
Working with the C-U Immigration Forum, he says he’s tracked over 150 visits by I.C.E agents to the Champaign-Urbana area since 2015, including visits on 28 days in 2017 alone.
Dolinar says the treatment of undocumented immigrants as criminals by I.C.E. is legally questionable. He says violations under federal immigration laws are misdemeanors and should be handled as civil, rather than civil offenses. Dolinar says Saturday’s demonstration is evidence that many Americans will not put up with anti-immigrant rhetoric from Washington that he calls hate speech.