In response to the lawsuit filed yesterday by the City of Chicago against the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the threat issued to cities that provide common-sense protections to immigrants from deportation, the Chicago Immigration Working Group, a local coalition of organizations that has been working on strengthening Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, issued the following statement:
While the Chicago Immigration Working Group supports efforts to push back against the Trump Administration’s bullying and overreach of federal power, it is clear that the primary purpose of the lawsuit filed by the City of Chicago is not to defend the rights of undocumented Chicagoans but to preserve federal funding for the Chicago Police Department and bolster Mayor Emanuel’s national image as a champion of immigrants.
Furthermore, the City is utilizing the lawsuit against the Department of Justice as a tactic to end negotiations with community members calling to remove the discriminatory carve outs from the Welcoming City Ordinance in order to protect all Chicagoans. In an email to community organizations inquiring about the lawsuit and the City’s next steps, Seemi Choudry, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans — the office tasked with relating to the immigrant community — noted, “As for scheduling a meeting to discuss the Welcoming City Ordinance, we are not in a position to discuss amendments to the ordinance as we are now in litigation with the federal government.”
Over the past two years, immigrant rights organizations in Chicago have demanded that the City remove the categories of individuals exempted from protection under the Welcoming City Ordinance, pointing that they are overly broad and could be in violation of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU-IL) sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council urging the City to remove the carve outs; over 50 civil rights and immigrant rights organizations have pledged support to strengthening the Welcoming City Ordinance, and thousands have signed petitions urging for the changes. However, for several months the City has canceled meetings with advocates and stalled progress on removing the carve-outs, leaving a series of amendments to the Ordinance in Committee since February 2017.
Meanwhile, the City continues to embolden its local law enforcement to violate some individuals’ 4th Amendment rights by detaining immigrants beyond the time when they would ordinarily be released. Under the current version of the Welcoming City Ordinance, Chicago police officers are allowed to hold individuals for ICE, putting some community members at risk of deportation during their interactions with the Chicago police. The City proudly declares in the lawsuit, “undocumented individuals will be detained at the federal government’s request only when Chicago has an independent reason to believe they might pose a threat to public safety.”
However, detaining any individual without due process or probable cause is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Jurisdictions around the country have been held liable for violating the 4th Amendment rights when collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in this way. Neither the police nor the City of Chicago has authority to hold someone for immigration enforcement without due process, even if they fall within the exemptions of the Welcoming City Ordinance. Additionally, the carve outs in the Ordinance reinforce the Trump administration’s rhetoric that immigrants threaten our communities.
If the City of Chicago is truly serious about ensuring public safety and resisting the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, then it must take action to protect all individuals’ constitutional rights and amend the Welcoming City Ordinance to protect all Chicagoans without exceptions.
The members of the Chicago Immigration Working Group and the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary, include: Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Chicago Community and Workers Rights, Black Youth Project 100, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – Immigrant Worker Project, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Community Activism Law Alliance, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, Enlace Chicago, Hana Center, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jobs with Justice – Chicago, Latino Policy Forum, Latino Union of Chicago, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Mijente, Organized Communities Against Deportations, PASO- West Suburban Action Project, Polish American Association of Chicago, SEIU-Healthcare, and the Southwest Organizing Project.