The American Civil Liberties Union urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council Monday to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance to ensure that “all immigrants are protected, without exception.”
Currently, Chicago Police officers are permitted to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if targeted individuals are in the city’s gang database; have pending felony prosecutions or prior felony convictions, or if they are the subject of an outstanding criminal warrant.
For months, immigrant activists, the Black Youth Project and Hispanic aldermen have demanded removal of all of those so-called “carve-outs.”
On Monday, the ACLU joined the chorus, arguing that the exemptions “have little relationship to the goal of public safety.”
Of the 41,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Cook County, more than half are at least 10 years old, the ACLU claimed. Many of those warrants stem from a “technical violation of probation or supervised release — not a new charge,” the ACLU said.
The ACLU further argued that Chicago Police Department’s gang database is “notoriously inaccurate.” That’s because, as the Chicago Sun-Times has reported, the public “does not know the criteria for inclusion on the list and someone placed on the list has no notice, nor any opportunity to contest inclusion.”
In a letter to key committee chairmen, ACLU senior staff attorney Rebecca K. Glenberg argued that the Chicago Police Department “already has plenty of tools to arrest and detain individuals who pose a real threat to the public — whether or not they are immigrants.”
Glenberg noted that the Welcoming City Ordinance was tailor-made to “encourage cooperation between the community and law enforcement by assuring immigrants that the police are not there to enforce immigration laws.”
The exceptions “do the opposite,” she said.
“Many immigrants continue to fear that cooperating with police could lead to detention or deportation for themselves or for family members.”
“We applaud the city for acting in 2012 to make clear that all persons — no matter their immigration status — are welcome in Chicago. The message of welcoming, however, is being undermined by exceptions in the ordinance that can easily be fixed.”
Tania Unzueta, legal and policy director for Mijente, a national Latino organization, noted that immigrant activists and their City Council champions have pushed to eliminate the “carve-outs” for more than a year.
“It is time for the city to take action,” she was quoted as saying.
Emanuel’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Martinez, said Chicago would “continue to . . . stand up for the values that have made us a beacon of hope for immigrants and refugees from around the world for generations.”
But her emailed statement was silent on whether or not the exemptions would be eliminated, as the ACLU has demanded.