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Johnson denies his officers violated welcoming city ordinance

Ald. Danny Solis at a City Council meeting in 2016. File Photo. Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

Ald. Danny Solis at a City Council meeting in 2016. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

Under fire from one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closest City Council allies, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Monday denied that his officers played any role in the arrest, detention and threatened deportation of an undocumented mother of three.

“We don’t question people about their immigration status. We will never do that,” Johnson said after joining Emanuel at an unrelated news conference on CTA security upgrades.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, is so incensed by the Aug. 1 raid at a Pilsen mini-market at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue, he filed a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability accusing Chicago Police officers of violating the sanctuary city ordinance.

The mini-market was descended upon in an 8:30 a.m. raid that included 25 police officers and 15 police vehicles.

“They’re not supposed to do any effort – even with a warrant – that collaborates with Homeland Security or ICE. … A woman who was a clerk there ended up being handcuffed and taken into custody with Homeland Security,” the alderman said.

“This woman who has three kids — 21, 17 and 16 — is now in custody and likely to be deported. If this happened because the Police Department violated a city ordinance, then I think it is outrageous and that’s why I’m calling for an investigation.”

Chicago Police Department spokesman Tom Ahern said the arrest of the store clerk was “never the intended outcome, we’re not happy about it and CPD will work with the city Law department to explore what options are available to us as a city.”

Later, Johnson divorced himself from the arrest after an Aug. 1 raid triggered by public complaints about the store.

“We sit on a task force that [the] Cook County sheriff’s [department] drive. They’re the experts in copyright infringement and fraudulent materials. These particular stores commit crimes that usually develop into larger crimes. It is very rare that a store employee is even arrested or removed from an establishment of this type,” Johnson said.

“We had no part in that particular incident. Homeland Security sits on that task force also. They questioned the person independently and, independently of CPD, did whatever it is they do. But, no. We didn’t violate anything. We don’t get involved in that. I said it from Day One.”

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks at a news conference following a violent weekend in which 71 people were shot. | Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks at a news conference last week. File Photo. | Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times

Emanuel has declared that Chicago has been and will always be a “welcoming city” where Chicago Police Officers will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

He has sued repeatedly — and scored legal victories at several levels — to prevent the Trump administration from cutting off federal funding to Chicago and other sanctuary cities.

That’s apparently why the mayor was quick to wash his hands of the arrest and threatened deportation that came out of the raid.

“You have an operation that’s about counterfeit products. That’s legitimate. It cannot become an operation about ensnaring a Chicagoan who is welcomed into our city — especially a parent with children,” the mayor said.

Although police had a warrant to search the market, Solis questioned the priorities that allowed that amount of police resources to be devoted to an investigation of alleged counterfeit products being sold at the mini-mart.

Mini-mart at 18th and Ashland

Ald. Danny Solis has filed a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability over a raid on a Pilsen mini-market at 18th and Ashland. | Google Streetview

“They collected fake T-shirts and hats from 8:30 in the morning ’til 2 in the afternoon. I mean — don’t we have a lot of crime going on? Gang bangers and drug dealers? And we need to do this?” Solis said.

At a City Hall news conference Monday, community activist Emma Lozano, pastor of Lincoln United Methodist Church, noted that the woman likely to be deported Friday had “absolutely nothing to do with selling or buying” illegal merchandise.

“Why would you do this when they tell us they’re only going after the ‘bad hombres’? What does she have to do with that?” Lozano said.

“What’s going on here if we have to put 25 police officers and all of this operation, this collaboration of Homeland Security to pick up a mom who’s been here more than 20 years working and all her children are U.S. citizen children? Why would they target her? This is not what we would call the ‘bad hombres.’ This is not a cartel. This is not a delinquent.”

Monday’s news conference denouncing the Aug. 1 raid was a prelude to a gut-wrenching City Council hearing on U.S. immigration policy that included tearful testimony from family members separated from loved ones.

After nearly three hours of emotional testimony, the Human Relations Committee approved an ordinance championed by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th).

It calls on Congress to reinstate an Obama-era program allowing parents of children who are U.S. citizens, have temporary protected status, or are eligible for DACA to work and live legally in the United States.

After the vote, activists formed a human chain outside City Hall, blocking mid-day traffic on LaSalle Street for seven minutes.