Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez tried Monday to reassure students living in fear, driven to despair and contemplating suicide since the election of Donald Trump as president that Chicago will remain a “sanctuary city” that protects illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama told reporters he’s urging Trump not to revoke an executive order that gives protections to “Dreamers,” immigrant youths living in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.
Trump has said he wants to rescind all of Obama’s executive orders, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, which allows some 725,000 Dreamers to remain in the country.
“I mean, these are kids who were brought here by their parents,” Obama said at a press conference. “They did nothing wrong. They have gone to school. They have pledged allegiance to the flag. Some of them joined the military. . . . By definition, if they are part of this program, they are solid, wonderful young people of good character.
“And it is my strong belief that the majority of the American people would not want to see suddenly those kids (to) have to start hiding again. And that’s something that I will encourage the president-elect to look at.”
Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration is prompting a “public health crisis,” according to Patrick Magoon, CEO of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Emanuel and Gutierrez joined him there to spotlight a 200 percent spike in calls to mental-health hotlines across the state and a 250 percent increase nationwide blamed on anxiety sparked by Trump’s election over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
If Trump dares to revoke Obama’s DACA executive order, Gutierrez said he will consider it a “declaration of war.” He pledged to not allow immigration reform to go forward “on the backs of” Dreamers.
“Before they come for you, they will have to come for us,” Gutierrez said at the hospital. “Before they deprive you of your liberty and your freedom to express yourself and live fully in this country, they will have to deny us our freedom and our liberty to express ourselves.”
The congressman then addressed the students so fearful that they or their parents will be deported, they are literally contemplating suicide and flooding suicide hotlines.
“Do not despair. Do not leave us. Do not take an irrevocable action that none of us can then change,” he said.
Emanuel then took to the podium to reassure immigrants that Chicago will not cower in the face of Trump’s first 100 days threat to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities where illegal immigrants can live without fear of police harassment.
“Chicago has in the past been a sanctuary city,” the mayor said. The City Council “took (Obama’s) executive order and made it an ordinance to be clear about what Chicago is. It always will be a sanctuary city.
“To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election very nervous, filled with anxiety — you are safe in Chicago. You are secure in Chicago. And you are supported in Chicago. Administrations may change. But our values and principles as it relates to inclusion [do] not.”
The reassurances were not enough to satisfy Luis Gomez, an Illinois Institute of Technology senior who also spoke at Monday’s news conference.
He used his time at the lectern to call out Emanuel and Gutierrez for not going far enough.
“Rep. Gutierrez, if unity is to be achieved, you need to stop categorizing and separating the undocumented community between deplorable and Dreamers. I demand that you stand for all immigrants — and not just immigrants without criminal records,” Gomez said.
“Mayor Emanuel, the welcoming city ordinance only protects immigrants without criminal records. I demand that you expand protection in the city ordinance to those who belong to my community with a record.”
Gomez also urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to “reject your party’s destructive” politics and sign bills declaring Illinois a sanctuary state and allowing undocumented immigrant students to apply for scholarships to state universities.
Emanuel hustled out of the news conference without commenting on the Gomez broadside.
Gutierrez stood his ground against the surprise attack from the IIT senior.
“If you’re in this country and you’re a criminal — if you’re a drug dealer, if you’re a murderer — then you should be deported from the United States of America. I’ve been absolutely clear about that,” Gutierrez said.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Trump said he would begin by immediately deporting as many as three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records, then make a decision about the “terrific people” who fill the rest.