CPD agreement with ICE is about combating terrorism, drug and human trafficking — not immigration enforcement, mayor says

The agreement has raised eyebrows among some immigration advocates. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot has no such concerns — not after the City Council voted Wednesday to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance.

SHARE CPD agreement with ICE is about combating terrorism, drug and human trafficking — not immigration enforcement, mayor says
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot stands with immigrant activists Glo Choi and Rosie Carrasco at a City Hall news conference Wednesday to trumpet approval of the mayor’s plan to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance.

Fran Spielman/Chicago Sun-Times

An agreement allowing Chicago Police personnel to be designated as “customs officers” is about combating terrorism, drug and human trafficking — not about immigration enforcement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that the little-known agreement was signed in April by now-fired Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

It allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “designate certain employees” of CPD as “customs officers” to “enforce the full range of federal offenses” except “administrative violations of immigration law.”

The agreement has raised eyebrows among some immigration advocates.

But Lightfoot has no such concerns. Not after the City Council voted Wednesday to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance without eliminating “carve-outs” as demanded by immigration advocates.

“The [agreement] is around Homeland Security, which is a distinct and separate activity. It specifically states that they may not participate in immigration enforcement activities. And the ordinance that passed today makes that abundantly clear,” the mayor said.

“There’s a reason why the deputy of ICE came here to complain about the fact that they haven’t been able to meet their targets. They haven’t been able to meet their targets because they rely upon local law enforcement to expand their reach, and we have denied them that ability and we will continue to do so.”

Lightfoot was asked whether she would have signed the agreement nailed down a month before she took office.

“I would have made sure the language was very, very clear, separating out the Homeland Security-focused activities, which, of course we have an interest in, from the immigration activities,” the mayor said.

But, she added, “With the specific directive I’ve given the Police Department, the training they’ve done and with the ordinance today, I think we’re good.”

The ordinance approved Wednesday would limit “city entities and employees from assisting” with immigration enforcement operations or sharing data with ICE.

The Chicago Police Department would be required to document requests for assistance from federal immigration authorities.

The city’s corporation counsel would be required to “develop policies for city facilities” to make certain they “remain safe and accessible to all Chicago residents, regardless of immigration status.”

And the city would be required to take “reasonable steps” to establish a service through its 311 non-emergency system that “provides callers with information on immigration resources, even if the caller has limited proficiency in the English language.”

Lightfoot reaffirmed her campaign promise to eliminate “carve-outs” that allow Chicago Police officers to cooperate with ICE if targeted individuals are: in the city’s controversial gang database; have pending felony prosecutions or prior felony convictions; or if they are the subject of an outstanding criminal warrant.

But that will have to wait until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the city’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s attempt to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Also on Wednesday, the City Council relaxed the rigid rules for food trucks and the Wrigley Field plaza and approved a new license for mobile merchants and a watered-down anti-gentrification plan for the 606 Trail—all of it without debate.

Aldermen also confirmed Lightfoot’s appointments of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi and Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.

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