Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he does not believe President-elect Donald 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 you’re dodging nonstop political fire.
Emanuel spoke from experience as the man who served as the first White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama.
“When you’re in the White House, it is incoming. When they look at all of the things they want to get done and all of the battles — whether they’re ones they initiate or ones that will come to ’em — they will make a choice that this is not the battle they want to take on because they’ve got bigger fish to fry. Just mark my words,” the mayor said.
The mayor boldly predicted that Trump would not pick an immigration fight with the nation’s major cities after an emotional debate on the City Council floor that moved him to tears.
It happened during debate on a resolution reaffirming the welcoming city ordinance that codified Chicago’s standing as a sanctuary city where undocumented immigrants can access city services and live without fear of police harassment.
As he has many times before, Emanuel choked back tears as he talked about his immigrant grandfather’s frightening flight to Chicago from the pogroms of Eastern Europe.
The mayor also talked about the wall in his parents’ home that serves as a tribute and memorial to the relatives who didn’t make it to America.
“It was to remind Ezekiel, Rahm and Ariel why we were here, why we were fortunate and why we could not waste our time in this great city and this great country, and that we needed to do something to honor those eyes that looked upon us,” the mayor said.
“To honor my grandmother and my grandfather who came here. That their struggle was worth something. Their sacrifice was worth something. And that the promise of this city that welcomed Herman Smulevitz and Sophie is alive and well, and that we were to do something with that sacrifice and not waste it.”
After the meeting, Emanuel apologized for getting emotional and talked tough about what he believes Trump will and will not do.
What Trump will not do, Emanuel declared, is pick a fight with Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and other sanctuary cities. Not even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress.
“I believe he will not threaten all of those cities. . . . I don’t believe they’ll do it because that will mean every major city in the United States will be targeted, and that is not what an administration will do because that means the voices of Congress and the United States Senate, where there are Republicans with major cities that are sanctuary cities, will have to hurt the economic interests of those cities,” the mayor said.
Before embarking on the last foreign trip of his eight-year presidency, Obama urged 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.
On Wednesday, Emanuel referred to Trump’s threat as a cynical and cruel “bait and switch.”
“The DACA students came forward on a promise from the government to study. [They said], `Here’s my name. Here’s my number. Here’s my address.’ To do right by their parents’ sacrifice that tomorrow would be better than yesterday,” the mayor said.
“And for the government to now be the same government that uses that trust to turn on them, and to use the powers of the state to turn on them is wrong.”
The mayor was asked repeatedly what he would do if Trump follows through on his threat to turn off the federal funding spigot that delivers more than $1 billion a year to Chicago for transportation, infrastructure, housing and public safety.
He refused to “get into hypotheticals.”
But during his emotional speech on the City Council floor, Emanuel could not resist the opportunity to accuse Trump of sending a dangerous message with his appointment of Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, to serve as chief strategist and senior counselor in the Trump White House. Bannon served as Trump’s campaign CEO.
“You have a person now in the White House . . . who talks about Jews and the justification that he’s not anti-Semitic is that he worked at Goldman Sachs and in the entertainment industry and must not be anti-Semitic. Using a stereotype to justify that he’s not anti-Semitic,” Emanuel said.
“We are normalizing a language and a view [that divides people]. That is why this resolution is important.”