ALBANY PARK — Israel Lopez Bautista suddenly found himself on a Cicero street corner Thursday, miles away from where he was picked up and taken to a Wisconsin immigrant detention center the day before.
Speaking at a rally Thursday morning, family and friends say Bautista, a 43-year-old father of three, is a day laborer who was waiting at a popular hiring site near West Foster Avenue and North Pulaski Road with four other men Wednesday when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents approached the group.
They asked to see identification and when Bautista showed his Guatemalan Consulate ID, the federal agents arrested him and told the other men to leave, according to Bautista's brother, Enrique Lopez Bautista.
In a statement, an official with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed agents had detained Bautista on Wednesday for "illegally re-entering the United States."
Bautista had been deported to Guatemala in April 2007, the official said.
Bautista was eventually released — "dropped off in the street at 26th and Austin" just outside of the city limit — according to Elisa Ringholm, Director of the Latino Union.
Bautista was not familiar with the area and doesn't speak English. He was picked up by friends at about 4 p.m. after getting directions from residents.
"[Being detained] was really hard because everyone [only] spoke English. There was no communication," Bautista said via a translator Thursday. "Everyone was cold there. It was like being in hell. It was a horrible experience."
Ringholm said that by Thursday morning, Bautista had been transferred to a detention center in Dodge County, Wis., and was awaiting deportation. She couldn't explain ICE's reasons for unexpectedly releasing Bautista as of Thursday afternoon, but said an ICE process known as a "prosecutorial discretion" could have determined the action.
Bautista's brother, Enrique Bautista, said Thursday he was shocked when his brother was arrested.
"I don't have an ID, but they didn't arrest me," Bautista said through an interpreter. "I don't understand."
Ringholm and family members said Bautista was a good father and an active church member who only came to this country to seek work. They claimed he had no criminal background.
"He's a day laborer who's here to work and bring bread to his family everyday," Bautista said. "His wife is crying. His children are crying. He's the one who sustains them."
Upon his release Thursday, Bautista urged other undocumented immigrants not to sign papers they didn't understand if they are detained by ICE.
"Immigrants are not criminals," he said. "They are not the ones doing crime here."
"We have to start living for each other," he added. "We have to become united. All immigrants are exposed to the same conditions. I look forward to uniting so we can confront this."
Two of Israel Bautista's sons were at the rally Thursday — hours before Bautista's return. Freddy Lopez, 18, said he and his brothers were pleading with the government to let their father go.
"What they did to my father is very unjust," Freddy Lopez said. "He came here to look for work, not to do anything bad."
Selvin Lopez, 15, echoed the call for his father's release.
"He came to this country to work because he has a family to sustain," he said. "I'm the youngest of his sons, and I need him."
Ringholm said the site where Bautista was arrested is the oldest hiring site for day laborers in the city. He said laborers like Bautista come to the site each day seeking work, mostly landscaping or construction.
Ringholm said The Latino Union of Chicago is also asking for a moratorium on deportations.
"We're also calling for an end to deportations immediately until comprehensive immigration reform is finalized. It makes no sense at all to be deporting people who could qualify for citizenship."