On March 27, 2017, Wilmer Catalan was at home recovering from a multiple gunshot wound injury that resulted in a fractured right skull and right shoulder, a traumatic brain injury, and partial paralysis on the left side of his body. On that day, agents unlawfully entered Wilmer’s home without a criminal warrant or consent. Despite his pleas of pain and repeated claims of his existing injuries, Wilmer was further injured by ICE officials.
ICE was conducting a raid based on false information obtained from the Chicago Police Department, so his case became part of the campaign to Expand Sanctuary in Chicago, which includes expanding protections for Chicagoans and eliminating the gang database. Wilmer’s partner, Celene, was at the forefront of the campaign to release Wilmer. She fearlessly led rallies, talks, workshops, media conferences, and helped OCAD link our fight against the surveillance of Black and brown people to the fight to release her husband. Through this campaign we have been able to concretely demonstrate how the City of Chicago is complicit in the deportation of our communities, how police are an extension of the deportation pipeline, and the harms that surveillance technologies and databases cause.
Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) and Mijente embarked on a 10 month fight to get Wilmer back with his family and community. Wilmer Catalan was represented by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in his federal civil rights litigation and Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center in his removal proceedings.
Throughout the campaign to release Wilmer there were serious concerns that the ICE detention center at McHenry County Correctional Facility failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to Wilmer for the injuries he sustained during the January 2017 shooting and the additional injuries sustained as a result of the ICE agents’ actions. In addition to the lack of appropriate medical care, he also had difficulty taking care of himself as the facility didn’t provide any assistance to him.
There were also serious concerns over jail retaliation against Wilmer for speaking out about his detention conditions and requests for medical assistance. Wilmer was reprimanded by officers at McHenry County officers for enlisting other inmates’ help in carrying out his basic hygiene needs. When one officer saw Wilmer receiving help from another inmate, the officer threatened him with punishment in administrative segregation. These aggressions culminated with a hunger strike led by other men in deportation proceedings. Wilmer’s release was among the demands that came as a result of the hunger strike.
The joint efforts to stop the deportation of Wilmer Catalan culminated in January 2018 with his release. Today, Wilmer Wilmer is with his family while awaiting a decision on his U-Visa. Wilmer and his wife Celene continue to be an inspiration for our community. The organizing that Celene and him started is far from over.
Celene was recently diagnosed with cancer and now it’s our turn to help her. You can make a donation to her emergency fund here.
Este taller de criminalización es un recurso preparado por Comunidades Organizadas contra las Deportaciones (OCAD) y el Centro para la Nueva Comunidad (CNC). La clave para luchar contra el sentimiento anti-inmigrante es comprender que no se trata de delincuencia, sino de la criminalización.
We advocate for the elimination of the use of detention centers and deportations, surveillance mechanisms, and “reforms” that exclude the most criminalized amongst us. One way we are doing this is by advocating for the elimination of the City of Chicago’s gang database.
Genoveva’s case is one of OCAD’s first victories. OCAD supported her in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (something that takes a lot of courage). As a result, Genoveva got her U visa approved, is with her family and continues to fight for others.