While immigrant-friendly cities states have spent the last year pushing back against President Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policies, a group of activists in Chicago took a different tack this week. They went after Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
On Tuesday, protesters with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) and Black Youth Project 100 briefly blocked an intersection in downtown Chicago. Protesters erected an art installation calling out the city’s gang database and Emanuel’s support for the construction of a multimillion-dollar police-training facility. They also held aloft a sign that read rahm’s chicago: sanctuary for police not immigrants.
The mayor, they said, talks a good talk about immigrants, but has failed to back policies that protect the city’s most vulnerable undocumented immigrants.
“The mayor cannot continue to use these pro-immigrant tactics,” while failing to back more inclusive policies, said Reyna Wences, an organizer with OCAD.
The “pro-immigrant tactics” Wences referred to are recent, and ostensibly immigrant-friendly, wins for the city. On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved a resolution backed by Emanuel that called for the creation of a Dreamers Bill of Rights at the state level. The resolution asks that, in the wake of the Trump administration’s cancellation of DACA, Illinois do “all it can to remain a welcoming place for the more than 40,000 DACA youth that live, work, and study” in the state.” DACA benefits undocumented young people, offering them short-term immigration protections and work permits for two-year stints, and is in the midst of a phase out.
The resolution calls for the creation of a state legal-defense fund to provide undocumented immigrants, who have no right to an attorney in immigration court, access to counsel, and appeals to the state to allow undocumented immigrants the right to access professional certification and licenses. It also urges Illinois to limit its participation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The resolution, Emanuel has acknowledged, is a symbolic one.
But it’s not just flowery resolutions. Chicago has been doing more to burnish its reputation as an inclusive sanctuary city. Last month a federal judge sided with Chicago, which sued the federal government over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s threats to punish cities that tried to limit their law enforcement agencies’ participation with federal immigration authorities. Sessions’ scheme involved updating federal rules to withhold grant money from localities that refused to give federal immigration authorities total access to their police stations and to hold on to potential immigration violators for ICE. Chicago, a judge ruled, could prevail in arguing that the city would face “irreparable harm” if it overhauled its city policies to satisfy the Trump administration’s demands.