Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday and urged him not to deport the children of illegal immigrants and not to follow through on a campaign threat to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between Emanuel and Trump, and the mayor tried to use it to his advantage, including a pitch for federal assistance for the two-year police hiring surge and youth mentoring programs that Emanuel hopes will stop a 50 percent surge in homicides and shootings.
Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and incoming senior adviser Stephen Bannon also sat in on the meeting at Trump Tower. Emanuel’s meeting with Trump was scheduled for 30 minutes, but went 45 minutes. It was followed by a 20-minute meeting with Bannon and Priebus.
Emanuel has participated in two presidential transitions as an aide to former President Bill Clinton and as President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff.
That’s why topics under discussion at Trump Tower included “White House operations, how to make that work.” But it also included everything from immigration, transportation, education and training to policing, mentoring and gun control.
“I don’t want to put words in his mouth, so I’m careful. But we had a good conversation. I would describe it as frank and honest as well as a healthy exchange of ideas,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times in a telephone conversation from Manhattan. “He has his views. I have mine. I tried to, on a number of issues, show different ways to look at them.”
Emanuel said he handed the President-elect a letter signed by 14 big-city Democratic mayors asking Trump to continue the Obama policy of allowing youths in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country with legal protections.
These young people, known as Dreamers, were protected under executive orders signed in 2012 by President Barack Obama, which Trump has threatened to withdraw after he takes office.
“The reason they’re called ‘Dreamers’ is because they are literally pursuing the American dream. And I said it is wrong for the United States to ask them for … personal information and then, do a bait-and-switch” by using that information against them, Emanuel said.
Ever since Trump’s stunning defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, Emanuel has been reassuring anxious immigrants that Chicago “is and always will be” a sanctuary city where immigrants can access city services and live without fear of police harassment.
Just last week, Emanuel took $1 million of the money earmarked for a widely ignored property tax rebate and used it to create a “Legal Protection Fund” to assist immigrants threatened with deportation after Trump’s election.
The mayor has said he did not believe Trump will cut off federal funding to Chicago and other “sanctuary cities” because Trump will have “bigger fish to fry” in a White House where “it is incoming” all the time and you’re dodging nonstop political fire.
After Wednesday’s face-to-face meeting with Trump, Emanuel was asked whether he still believes a sanctuary city standoff can be avoided.
“He heard my passion about people pursuing the American dream. He heard my personal passion. I told him about my [immigrant] grandfather — what it means for cities with immigrants who struggle and sacrifice for their children to have a shot at the American dream. A sanctuary city means that people are welcome and they’re supported in that effort,” Emanuel said.
Trump is already softening his hard-line position, telling Time Magazine — which named him ‘Person of the Year’ on Wednesday: “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who turned the plight of an illegal Illinois youth into the national Dreamers movement, said in a statement he was “encouraged” by Trump’s comments.
With U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as attorney general, the sweeping civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald is unlikely to result in a consent decree and the appointment of a federal hiring monitor.
On Wednesday, Emanuel was asked whether he broached that sensitive subject during his meeting with Trump.
“That’s not something you talk to the President-elect about. But I talked about what we were doing: additional police, more alternatives for youths — from summer jobs to after-school programs to mentoring,” the mayor said.
“We disagree about the role of gun control. I believe in the Brady Bill I helped pass. I believe in the assault-weapon ban. But I also believe in prosecuting repeat gun offenders,” Emanuel said.
During the campaign, Trump used Chicago’s surging homicide rate as a hammer against the city. He portrayed Chicago as a “war-torn” city that desperately needs stop-and-frisk.
The caricature was so offensive the City Council voted to strip Trump of the honorary street designation outside the Trump International Hotel & Tower along the Chicago River.
In the interview with the Sun-Times, Emanuel never mentioned the sign fight. But he did talk about the 970 police officers he has promised to hire over the next two years to stop the never-ending bloodshed on Chicago streets.
“We talked about that and the stuff Chicago needs to make a change … I also then talked about economic growth. This issue is not a one-trick pony. It’s not one thing. It’s more complicated,” the mayor said.
“I told him what we believe and what other mayors are dealing with right now — that [cities need] additional resources behind police. Not just more police but better training, technology and alternatives for our youth.”
Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley are among those urging Obama to consider mass presidential pardons to protect Dreamers before he leaves office on Jan. 20.
Earlier this week, Trump met with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Last month, Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood agent who is Emanuel’s brother, met with Trump at his New Jersey golf club, where Trump greeted him at the door as the “King of Hollywood.”
Ari Emanuel knows Trump through show business, not politics. He is the co-CEO of the WME-IMG agency in Los Angeles and represented Trump when he was starring on his reality show, “The Apprentice.” WME-IMG purchased the Miss Universe pageant from the Trump Organization when Trump started running for president.
Rahm Emanuel — like his brothers, Ari and Zeke — supported Clinton over Trump.
Emanuel arrived in New York on Tuesday for meetings in New York with bond houses. City Hall declined to put the Trump meeting on Emanuel’s schedule; the scheduled instead stated that Emanuel had “no public events scheduled.”
On Friday, Emanuel plans to be in Washington, where, among other things, he will appear at a Brookings Institution forum on cities in the era of Trump and Brexit.