Garcia: Improving relations with immigrants — or lip service?

SHARE Garcia: Improving relations with immigrants — or lip service?
A 2016 ity Hall news conference on amendment to Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance.

Aldermen and immigrant rights organizations held a news conference at City Hall last year. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Sun-Times file photo

Follow @MarlenGarcia777As Donald Trump rips sanctuary cities on the campaign trail, Chicago is moving to strengthen its ordinance.

Generally speaking, there are aspects of sanctuary ordinances that Trump and some Republicans in Congress don’t bother to ponder. For instance, what brings about the ordinances in the first place?

Chicago’s latest move goes back to a police raid of a tanning salon in 2013, when a Chicago Police officer smacked a Chinese-American salon manager, Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek, in the head with an open hand while Klyzek was on her knees, handcuffed.


Follow @MarlenGarcia777Klyzek was hysterical as the cop threatened that “I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f— you came from.” He told her the spa’s owner would kill her and her family. Cops ignored Klyzek when she cried out that she was a U.S. citizen.

The video came to light when Klyzek filed suit against the city in 2014. For some immigrants in Chicago, the video was an extreme example of their own mistreatment by cops. Appalled advocacy groups complained to city officials. They asked: How are cops supposed to get cooperation when they need it from immigrants if those residents are afraid they will be ridiculed, or worse, physically harmed?

They worked out an amendment to the city’s welcoming ordinance, Chicago’s version of a sanctuary statute, proposed at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Its chief sponsors are Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Ameya Pawar (47th).  Mayor Rahm Emanuel also is a sponsor.

The amendment says “immigrant community members, whether documented citizens or not, should be treated with respect and dignity by all city employees and should not be subjected to physical abuse, threats or intimidation.”

My first reaction: You need a law for this? Apparently, you do in Chicago. Advocacy groups see it as a small step in making city agencies accountable to immigrant residents.

“This is the way for us to clearly say, ‘The city cannot engage in this behavior,’” Van Huynh of Asian Americans Advancing Justice told me. A member of another community group said it creates a context for consequences when agents for the city engage in racist attacks against immigrants.

Huynh said that after the cops who abused Klyzek were hit only with light suspensions, and advocacy groups pressed city officials for an explanation, they were told that city laws lacked explicit language to serve as a basis for harsher punishment.

Klyzek’s lawyer, Torreya Hamilton, isn’t buying it.

“They already have policies in place to punish verbal abuse and excessive force,” Hamilton said.

The ordinance is a positive thing, she added, “but it doesn’t mean anything unless there is a functioning accountability system, and there has never been one.

“Until we have that, this ordinance, and 100 more like it, will mean nothing.”

Asked if her client could be interviewed, Hamilton said Klyzek is trying to stay out of the spotlight. Klyzek was charged with aggravated battery twice — she allegedly scratched officers — and both times the charge was dropped. If not for the video, she might have a criminal record. She won a $150,000 settlement from the city.

Reform still has a long way to go. Until then, beware of lip service.


Tweets by @MarlenGarcia777

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