Activists locked in the battle over illegal immigration Thursday night took the debate to Elgin, one of the leading gateways for immigrants to the Chicago suburbs.
On the eve of Veterans Day, supporters of the Illinois Minuteman Project gathered in the American Legion Hall on Elgin’s east side to share concerns about illegal immigration in the Fox Valley.
The changing face of Elgin and the recent controversy surrounding the playing of Mexico’s national anthem at Larkin High School fueled the debate.
“Illegals are invading our country,” Elgin resident Phyllis Krueger said. “We have to pay for their medical and their education. And we have to pay for our own insurance, which we can barely afford.”
With candles, American flags and signs of concern, a band of Elgin residents stood in protest as the meeting began.
About 40 protesters drawn mostly from the Elgin area congregated, representing groups like Elgin’s Hispanic Network, the Elgin Latino Political Action Committee and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
“I think as a community, as a Hispanic community, as a community who struggled to be here, we want to show them we are united,” said Joe Becerra, a 53-year-old Elgin man who settled in Elgin’s west side 49 years ago with his family from Mexico.
There to ensure candlelight vigils and protests did not take a violent turn were about 50 riot-ready police officers drawn from 25 suburban police departments, Elgin police Lt. Cecil Smith said.
Streets surrounding the hall on Liberty Street were blocked and all traffic diverted from the area. No arrests were made.
Eddy Batres of Schaumburg unleashed a torrent of anger at the Minuteman supporters.
“I have to say this to you,” he yelled. “I’m also an American. . . This is a land of immigrants.”
“Legal, legal,” the crowd yelled back.
Batres shook with anger.
“You,” he pointed to the crowd. “Your mother. Your father. . . You guys came from Europe. Go back to Europe.”
The crowd roared back, “Go back to Mexico.”