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City Council Expands Protections For Immigrants, Blocks CPD From Cooperating With ICE

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago police will be prohibited with cooperating with federal immigration agents, after the City Council on Wednesday approved a plan to remove loopholes from the city's Welcoming City Ordinance.

Aldermen voted 41-8 to approve Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plan to eliminate exemptions in the Welcoming City Ordinance that had allowed police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in certain limited circumstances.

"Today is a beautiful moment in the history of the city, as we remove the exceptions that have been used to this day to justify collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and ICE, and to deport members of our community without a right to due process," Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez said.

Before the changes approved by the City Council, the Welcoming City Ordinance allowed Chicago police to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the name of a person in CPD custody appears in the city's gang database, if they have a prior felony conviction or pending felony case, or if they have an outstanding criminal warrant.

The mayor's proposal eliminates those exceptions, and prohibits city agencies from detaining anyone solely based on their immigration status, or from transferring anyone into ICE custody solely for civil immigration enforcement.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said those exemptions had been used by "the few racist police officers we have in the city of Chicago as an excuse to racially profile the undocumented community in our city."

Under the changes to the Welcoming City Ordinance, police also will be barred from setting up a traffic perimeter or providing on-site support to assist federal agents in civil immigration enforcement operations. Police supervisors will be required to approve any requests for assistance for ICE. If a supervisor determines a federal agency is seeking help enforcing civil immigration laws, the supervisor will be required to decline the request.

Two more provisions were added to the mayor's proposal after she first introduced it in December; One requires the Chicago Police Department to review and certify within 90 days any applications for a so-called "U-Visa" available to undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes and help police with the investigation. The other replaces outdated language in the city's code that refers to people who hold some city licenses as citizens, even though citizenship isn't a requirement to obtain those licenses.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) noted the significance of the timing of the vote, coming one week after former President Donald Trump left office. The alderman blasted Trump for "some of the most vile anti-immigrant rhetoric that we have heard in a generation."

"Today is such a beautiful day, because after four years of attacks on our immigrant communities, we are turning the page on President Trump and Trumpism," Ramirez-Rosa said.

Lightfoot noted it was four years ago Wednesday that Trump issued an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Facing legal challenges, Trump later amended some provisions of the order, but later added even more countries to the travel restrictions, most of them also Muslim majority nations.

"It's up to leaders in all levels of government to put in the work to repair the wounds of this terrible action, both within our Muslim community and across our immigrant and refugee communities who were forced to endure this horrible indignity over the past four years," she said.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said no one should have to fear calling 911 or cooperate with police because they fear officers will have them deported if they discover they are an undocumented immigrant.

The aldermen who voted against the measure were Marty Quinn (13th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Matt O'Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), and James Gardiner (45th).

Lopez said law-abiding undocumented immigrants in his ward don't want violent gang members to get the same protections against deportation.

"What this ordinance does is treats those few individuals with the same compassion that you claim to want to give to individuals who are here undocumented, trying to do right, trying to create a better Chicago, trying to do better for them and their families, and that is wrong. To lump both groups together is not what the undocumented community wants," he said.

Napolitano, describing himself as the proud son of immigrants, said the changes to the Welcoming City Ordinance irresponsibly protect undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes while in the U.S.

"We are essentially welcoming criminals to our city. It doesn't have to do with illegals, illegal immigrants, it has to do with illegal immigrants that are convicted or have broken a law. If you are an illegal immigrant, and a convicted felon or a fugitive, what better place to go than Chicago?"

Sposato, who along with Napolitano is one of the most conservative members of the City Council, said his opposition to the proposal should not be a surprise to anyone.

"American people are a welcoming and generous people, but those who enter our country illegally, and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law, and because we live in a n age when terrorists are challenging our borders, we simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked," he said.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) said he disagrees with any suggestion that the ordinance means the city is being soft on crime.

"I know these are difficult times we're all facing. We're concerned about crime and murder rates and carjackings. … I don't think any of us are trying to be softer on crime," he said. "I don't believe that this ordinance is being soft on crime. I know that's how some are portraying it. I disagree."

Thompson said the city needs all of its police officers to be focused on patrolling the streets and protecting against violent crime, not enforcing federal immigration laws.

After the City Council meeting, Lightfoot accused Napolitano and Lopez of racist fear-mongering.

"I just have to say shame on you," she said. "We can and we will disagree on policy, and I believe that we must continue to press for immigration reform, but spirited debate – which is at the heart of democracy – is not the same as using racist tropes and xenophobic rhetoric to promote yourselves on the backs of others and demonize them."

Meantime, aldermen also unanimously approved a resolution urging President Joe Biden administration to reverse former President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies, and for President Biden and Congress to "enact legislation creating a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and fixing other provisions of our immigration laws that exclude and otherwise harm immigrants."

"Today I believe is going to be a good day for immigrants in our city, and really across the country. I think we have a message to send from our city that we care deeply for our residents, that include immigrants," said Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd).

President Biden already has signed a number of executive orders ending President Trump's so-called "Muslim travel ban," reversing the national emergency declaration cited by the Trump administration to divert money for construction of a wall along the Mexico border, Congress to grant permanent status and a path to citizenship to Dreamers — almost a million undocumented young people who were brought to the country as children and shielded from deportation by President Obama – and more.

In other business on Wednesday, the City Council approved:

  • A settlement agreement with Antwon Golatte, who was shot by Chicago police in 2015, a shooting the city's police oversight agency later ruled was not justified. Golatte will receive a $525,000 settlement, and the city will forgive $44,808.68 in debts he owes to the city.
  • The third phase of a project to expand cargo operations at O'Hare International Airport. Aldermen had previously stalled a vote on the city's plan to borrow $55.6 million to help fund the cargo expansion deal over concerns about low minority participation and insufficient hiring of city residents. The developer has since told aldermen the project will be led by Black-owned Bowa Construction and Latino-owned d'Escoto Inc., replacing white-owned Walsh Construction. The developer also agreed to pay the city damages if it does not meet benchmarks for hiring city residents.
  • A two-year pilot program to bring a community-oriented policing house (COP House) to Roseland, funded by a private donor. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he had been working to create the COP House on one of the most troubled blocks of Roseland for two years, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot had pushed back on his proposal, telling Beale she could not support it without more specifics on how much it would cost, who would pay for it, and how it would fit with CPD's existing community policing strategies. Beale hammered out a compromise that would require CPD to move forward with the project only after he provides a specific budget, identifies a source of funding acceptable to CPD and the city's budget director, establishes a funding stream with a specific amount and duration, and passes an ordinance appropriating the necessary funds.

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