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Immigrant rights groups say Lightfoot isn’t doing enough to protect them from ICE

Several pro-immigrant groups want Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an executive order barring all agencies under the Department of Homeland Security from accessing city databases.

Rey Wences, a member of Organized Communities Against Deportation, speaks to the press asking Mayor Lori Lightfoot signs an executive order barring the Department of Homeland Security from accessing city databases.
Manny Ramos

Several immigrant rights groups are calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an executive order that will add a layer of protection from federal raids.

The demands follow reports that thousands of undocumented immigrants across the country are at risk of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement beginning Sunday. The threat of raids by ICE has lingered for weeks but has yet to be executed.

“The mayor ran a campaign on the promise that she would end police-ICE collaboration or remove the loopholes to the current Welcoming City ordinances,” said Rey Wences, a member of Organized Communities Against Deportation. “However, the real threat of massive raids are here, and we can not wait for the next City Council meeting to address this issue.”

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond Thursday. On Wednesday, Lightfoot said the Chicago Police Department would not assist ICE agents in detaining any residents. She said the city also cut off ICE from accessing any Chicago police databases.

Wences said removing only ICE isn’t enough.

“There are so many subagencies within the [Department of Homeland Security] that can also carry out raids,” Wences said. “This executive order asks that any agency under DHS is denied access to the databases in the city.”

Organizers say the executive order they’ve written doesn’t include anything that Lightfoot hasn’t proclaimed she was doing already, but the order will make those promises more binding.

“We have seen flip-flopping where [Lightfoot] says one thing to one audience, and then she says something different to the community groups,” Wences said. “We are feeling conflicted but not surprised.”

Ruth Lopez-McCarthy, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, stressed undocumented people have the same rights as documented people, and they should use those rights to protect themselves when interacting with ICE agents.

“I think it’s very important for people to understand that they are not alone,” Lopez-McCarthy said. “They have a community of support, they have organizations, attorneys, advocates and community members here ready to rally behind them.”

Families with questions or in need of support should call the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights’ 24-hour hotline (855)-435-7693.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.