Deportation protests

Organizer Ruth Needleman, left in yellow, and others address the crowd gathered Friday at the Gary/Chicago International Airport to protest deportations of people residing in the United States without legal permission.

Scores of people gathered Friday at the Gary/Chicago International Airport to protest deportations taking place there.

The protests were the third to take place this year at the airport, which is used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to transport immigrants living in the country without legal permission. Friday's protest included representations from several different organizations from Northwest Indiana and elsewhere. 

Gary resident Ruth Needleman, one of the organizers of Friday's event, said the law enforcement presence was much more extensive than at past protests, and protesters were kept much farther away from the buses carrying detainees into the airport. Protesters were restricted to a fenced-in section of a parking lot of the airport.

Needleman said she thought it was important for the immigrants being brought into the airport — who she contends in the main have not committed any offense other than "wanting to be with their family" — know they have support.

"They are scared to death, and they need to know that they have support," she said.

Needleman, however, said the authorities on Friday restricted them to the point they couldn't really see the immigrants who were being loaded into the plane, and immigrants could not see them. 

Needleman was one of several people speaking during the rally in which people held signs in both English and Spanish calling for no more deportations. There also were frequent chants of "no more deportations" and "not one more" from the crowd.

Various unions lent their support to the effort, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. Other groups included Chicago Jobs with Justice and Northwest Indiana Resistance, which is a coalition of various local organizations.

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Gary airport protesters

Protesters rush to the corner of the parking lot at the Gary/Chicago International Airport after hearing a bus bearing immigrants living in the country without legal permission had arrived at the airport. Scores of people were at the airport Friday protesting deportations taking place there.

Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich, a spokeswoman with SEIU Local 1, said it is the first time the union came to the Gary airport to protest, but members have been at other airports protesting various actions taken under the administration of President Donald Trump, including the travel bans.

"A lot of our members are immigrants, and they are immigrants from various countries all across the world," she said. "And we want to make sure that we are there and we are standing with them to make sure that everybody knows that no human being is illegal."

Needleman said the protesters want to make sure people know the deportations for the entire area are taking place at the airport. That the deportations are taking place there, she added, "are a really dark mark" on the facility.

"We don't think we can stop the deportations in the short term, but that is our goal, to stop the deportations here," Needleman said. She said that doesn't mean they want the deportations just to move somewhere else, but rather that they should be stopped completely.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.