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Lightfoot vows to hammer out new ‘terms of engagement’ with ICE

The mayor’s comments were prompted by the deportation of the parents of 26-year-old who was protected by DACA.

Paula Hincapie-Rendon (center, white dress)
Paula Hincapie-Rendon (center, white dress) surrounded by staff and alumni of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago during a protest outside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s field office in the Loop on May 15, 2019. | Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed Tuesday to hammer out new “terms of engagement” for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Chicago to prevent future family tragedies like the deportation to Colombia of Paula Hincapie-Rendon’s parents.

“The fear is palpable. That is because of what’s been happening at the federal level. And we need to make sure that we have a firewall against that here in the city,” Lightfoot said during the National Immigrant Justice Center’s 20th annual Human Rights Awards.

“I plan to sit down with the head of ICE here. ... ICE has become this weaponized instrument of policies of hate that is very unfortunate. But I’m gonna make sure that there’s a clear understanding that, in our city, we’re not gonna let ICE be politicized and torturing and terrorizing our immigrant communities.”

Lightfoot pointed to the tragedy that unfolded in Chicago last month, when Hincapie-Rendon, who is protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was involved in what appeared to be a routine traffic stop on May 8.

ICE agents arrested the 26-year-old woman on her way to drop off her 5-year-old daughter at school. The agents then drove to their family home in Englewood and arrested Hincapie-Rendon’s parents, Betty Rendon and Carlos Hincapie.

The parents arrived in the United States in 2004 after making the potentially life-saving decision to flee Colombia with their daughter during their country’s civil war.

Last week, they landed back in Colombia after being deported by U.S. officials, who rejected pleas to keep the family together.

“This simple act of a traffic stop turned into a profound tragedy for this family from which they will not recover. We asked, ‘Can’t they at least have more time to get their affairs in order?’ [And the answer was], `No. There’s nothing we can do,’” Lightfoot said.

“Well, there’s always something that can be done — particularly when it’s about being just and right and giving people a sense of decency from their government. That was a big lesson learned for me and it tells me that we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we are very clear with ICE about what the terms of engagement can and will not be in this city.”

Without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Lightfoot also accused the president of setting a hateful tone from the top.

“I know, as an African-American woman, that we have a sad history of demonizing the ‘other’ in our country. But I thought — foolishly, it turns out — that we were past some of the things that we’ve seen,” she said.

“I never thought that we’d have to decry putting children in cages. That we would be separating children — even toddlers — from their parents at the border in a reckless and destructive policy that we are gonna suffer the consequences of for decades to come. I didn’t think we would see that kind of activity being sanctioned by the president of the United States.”

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years in a war of words with Trump.

Tuesday’s blast marked the first time that Lightfoot has attacked Trump after making a goodwill trip to Washington D.C. that included a meeting with the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.