Where 14 candidates for mayor stand on ‘sanctuary cities’ — their full responses

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Immigration activists held a news conference at City Hall in January, 2017, to push for closing loopholes in Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Fourteen of the candidates for mayor responded to our question about Chicago’s status as a “sanctuary city.” We asked:

Chicago, by ordinance, is an official “welcoming city.” This means the Chicago police are generally prohibited from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities. What’s your position on this policy? What more — or less — should be done with respect to undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago?

Here are their full responses, in the order we received them:



The first people we need to deport are all of our corrupt politicians. Chicago should remain a welcoming city for all law-abiding individuals. We should not kick any families who follow the law out of our communities. We need a better federal process to make our immigration policies sufficient. As Mayor, I will work with our members in Congress to move comprehensive and efficient immigration policies forward.



I have spent many years working in support of the immigrant community. For instance, I took on a pro bono case representing a Liberian immigrant who testified in federal court against his principal torturer. More recently, I’ve helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the National Immigrant Justice Center. These issues are very important to me.

I support amending the Welcoming City Ordinance to remove the four exceptions to the general rule not to arrest or hold anyone based solely on an ICE warrant or hold request. As mayor, I would only allow for compliance with valid warrants or court orders that are signed by a judge.

Also, drawing on my background as a federal prosecutor, one of my first priorities would be to meet with the head of ICE in Chicago and the U.S. Attorney’s office to express my views and the city’s position regarding ICE’s politicized role in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

I also support, among other things, efforts to protect undocumented immigrants from unscrupulous businesses that seek to take advantage of a person’s undocumented status, including businesses that commit wage theft, overcharge for services provided to undocumented immigrants, or which do not provide services they have been paid to perform.



I support the “Welcoming City” Ordinance. When I was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, we were a “Welcoming School District” and didn’t need an ordinance to ensure that. This means students and their families were provided the same supports and building access regardless of their immigrant status. I will continue that approach city wide as Mayor. I will however cooperate with outside agencies on issues related to violent criminals and individuals who pose a potential threat to the community. All too often the immigrant community is victimized.



We absolutely must do more to protect undocumented immigrants and ensure their safety in our city. I have called for the end to the carve outs in the Welcoming City ordinance that empowers Chicago police to work hand-in-hand with ICE. I’m working with the lead sponsor of the City’s Welcoming City ordinance and the broader community coalition to make this a reality. As Cook County Board President, I oversaw the approval of an ordinance that allowed uninsured Cook County residents earning under $48,000 and undocumented immigrants to see primary care physicians within the Cook County Health & Hospital System, that helped nearly 40,000 people in 2017. This ensures that undocumented immigrants have access to necessary care and protection without fear of law enforcement retribution.



I believe Chicago must reduce the fear of deportation and possible family break-up among people who are in the country without documentation. The goal is to encourage undocumented immigrants to be more willing to report crimes, use health and social services, and enroll their children in school.

I will ensure strong enforcement of the Welcoming City Ordinance(Chapter 2-173), which prohibits the City from considering citizenship or immigration status as a factor in the provision of City benefits, opportunities, or services, unless required to do so by state statute, federal regulation, or court decision. The Ordinance requires agencies to accept foreign driver’s licenses, passports or matricular consular (consulate-issued documents) as valid forms of identification for all purposes except completion of federally mandated I-forms. In addition, the Ordinance prohibits agencies from investigating or assisting in the investigation of the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by Illinois state statute, federal regulation, or court decision. Lastly, the Ordinance prohibits agencies from disclosing information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless required to do so by legal process or for other specified reasons.

Also, I will continue the City’s Office of New Americans, which reports directly to the Office of the Mayor and provides comprehensive information about immigration and the Sanctuary City Policy, as well as ensure continuation of the Chicago Municipal Identification Program (Chicago CityKey Program) and expansion of services for transgender immigrants. I will also create an Advisory Committee of the various immigrant groups so that I can be assured that I am addressing their specific needs.



Let me be clear: what is happening to migrants and refugees to this country is an atrocity. As mayor I will fight it with every tool available. The city should not act with or on behalf of of Trump’s immigration enforcers in any way. Additionally, to the extent that we can do so, we must provide effective oversight and resources for migrant children who are brought to Chicago. This is an ugly chapter in our country’s history, and the next mayor has a moral duty to fight it.



At the state level I have always supported our sanctuary state model: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocTypeID=SB&DocNum=35&GAID=14&SessionID=91&LegID=98878

And one of the ways I am proud of prior Daley and Emanuel administrations is their work toward Chicago being a sanctuary city. Yet the Chicago Welcoming City Ordinance has its loopholes and a true sanctuary city goes beyond protection from ICE on the outside to the sense of freedom of all of residents to get the services they need, and, when humanly possible, in the languages in which they need those services. Our schools need to be sanctuary schools. We can work toward the purest sanctuary city model in the country by it being designed “with” and not “for” those without documentation and their allies. A real sanctuary city will be inclusive in every meaning of the term at new and more protective levels.



The concept of a “welcoming city” is an important tool that helps enforce basic human rights and safety for all Chicago residents. I agree that Chicago police officers should not waste time or resources investigating civil violations related to immigration status. There must, however, be a careful balance so that local law enforcement is not curtailed from investigating criminal activity or accessing past criminal behavior of individuals living in Chicago. Any city ordinance that limits collaboration between CPD and federal immigration authorities should not conflict with the process of investigating criminal activity — regardless of immigration status.



I’m the daughter of hard-working Mexican immigrants. As mayor, Chicago will remain a beacon among sanctuary cities in this country, celebrating our city’s rich diversity as a destination for so many cultures and ethnicities from across the globe. I’ll ensure it remains so and will stand up to ICE and Donald Trump at every turn as they attempt to bring harm to immigrant families. I support expanding Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance with due process put in place for those who may have pending felony charges or open warrants. I believe in striving to keep families together.



The Chicago Welcoming City Ordinance includes four exceptions to the general rule to not arrest or hold anyone based solely on an ICE warrant or hold request. These exceptions involve individuals with prior felony convictions, pending felony charges, open warrants, or listing in the city’s gang database. I support removing the exceptions. ICE’s policy related to arrest and detainment is rooted in xenophobia and has an adverse and draconian impact on people of color. It’s institutional bigotry disguised as a race-neutral matter of national security, of which our campaign vehemently condemns.

The Chicago gang database has 195,000 Chicagoans who have been “tagged” as gang members. Individuals tagged in the database often suffer harsh consequences, including loss of job opportunities, harsher sentencing, and, for immigrants, detention and deportation. Almost 100% of individuals listed in Chicago’s gang database are Black and Latinx. The Office of Inspector General’s independent investigation into the database confirmed advocate concerns about it being used as a tool to criminalize communities of color, with zero accountability, due process, or oversight. As such, I support abolishing the database. Policies long on maligning people of color at a rate of 100%, and short on accountability, due process, and oversight add insult to the injury past administrations have incurred on Chicago’s households and communities of color.

I come from an immigrant family, so this issue is especially relevant to me. The city is not a sanctuary if we can’t be safe in our neighborhoods, access the type of healthcare necessary, or get a quality education (because the school system is cutting services). The city is not a sanctuary if policing morphs into a form of draconian xenophobic abuse in communities of color. We need to think more broadly about what “sanctuary” means, as the city hasn’t done a very good job at insuring “sanctuary” for anyone at this point. So making this city a sanctuary for everyone requires new ideas that actually move us forward.

We must ensure Chicago is an equity, fairness, and opportunity sanctuary for ALL residents; Ensure training, protections, and protocols are in place to serve undocumented immigrants and protect them from harassment and deportation; and enforce asylum mechanisms for undocumented immigrants.



No response to this question.



I am not for Chicago police doing the work of ICE agents. As a long-time civil rights attorney, I support the current policy that unless there is a valid warrant to hold detainees, it is a violation of that person’s civil rights to detain them.



I support immigrants and will keep Chicago a welcoming city. Immigrants built Chicago and give our neighborhoods their character. My goal is to grow Chicago to a city of three million, and to do that we must attract new people to the city. Immigrants — documented or otherwise — are an important part of that goal.

I will maintain Chicago as a sanctuary city, but I will not rest there. I will invest in communities that will continue to attract immigrants, and I have emphasized the need to include the undocumented in building a hybrid school board.



CPD officers should not be pressed into service by federal law enforcement agencies to do the job they are charged to do. Not only is this unconstitutional but it is impractical for reasons that include CPD officers’ lack of training on immigration law enforcement. However, all undocumented persons facing felony charges should be tried, prosecuted and deported, if found guilty. No exceptions.

Obviously, immigration is a very important issue nationally. However, the practical components of these policies are being played out in America’s urban centers, especially here in Chicago. As mayor, I would lead a council of big city mayors to advise Congress on

how these policies are impacting immigrant families, local law enforcement and the delivery of social services and benefits.

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