The sixth annual National Coming Out of the Shadows rally took to Chicago's crowded downtown streets Saturday afternoon as revelers celebrated the city's St. Patrick's Day festivities.
The event, held by Chicago-based Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD), sought to highlight the struggles of undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. The rally began with a call-and-response chant of "undocumented and unafraid!" Approximately 50 ralliers were in attendance from a broad array of ethnic backgrounds.
This year's Coming Out of the Shadows event also called on undocumented immigrants to make themselves known and mobilize, in the belief they will gain strength in numbers.
Speaking to the crowd, Antonio Gutierrez, one of the event's organizers, challenged the notion that lack of citizenship makes you any less of a citizen.
"We're all immigrants in this country," said Gutierrez, "just because you're undocumented it doesn't make you less of a human being.
"Four million deportations are too much, and we will not stop until all undocumented immigrants are treated with dignity, like a human being," he continued.
While the atmosphere was largely positive, buoyed by dance and musical performances, sobering reminders of the realities undocumented immigrants face also took center stage when several people shared their personal stories. Details differed, but all those who spoke shared a similar story of living in fear of deportation and experiencing the pain of losing a family member to deportation.
One woman was visibly emotional as she spoke of her husband's deportation. She hasn't been able to tell her young daughter yet, instead saying that he's working but he'll be back. Another, Ivan Bello, explained how he regularly deals with profiling and harassment from the police, and described the American Dream as a "living nightmare."
Bello told Progress Illinois that he was aware of his status immediately upon entering America.
"Having to come jumping a border at 9-year- old, since then you realize there is something that is dividing us. We are seen as criminals and I believe that's not fair, we are looking for an opportunity like the people that established this country," Bello said.
The ralliers also criticized President Obama's administration, claiming he hasn't done enough to help undocumented immigrants.
"There have been six million deportations in President Obama's administration, that's six million families torn apart."
Antonio Gutierrez, who has been with OCAD since it's inception in 2012, explained what the organization does for undocumented immigrants.
"We really wanted to mobilize the community that was going through deportation and that were to afraid to speak out and find resources for family members that were being deported and they thought they couldn't do anything," he told Progress Illinois.
"Just because someone is detained, it doesn't mean they are automatically deported, they have to go through a legal court process, and through that whole process we can apply for different reliefs."
According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, with Obama's deferred action programs hemmed up in the court system, more than half of the Cook County undocumented population will not qualify for any form of administrative relief.