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Rahm: Chicago will remain sanctuary city despite Trump threat

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the media briefing after the Chicago City Council meeting. Wednesday, January 25, 2017 Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

Chicago will remain a sanctuary city — in spite of President Donald Trump’s renewed threat to cut off federal funding to cities where undocumented immigrants can live without fear of police harassment, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

“I want to be clear: We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city. There is no stranger among us. We welcome people — whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, whether you’re from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you’re from Mexico or Moldova where my grandfather came from. You are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American dream,” the mayor said.

“I don’t know what’s in the executive order. [I know] that it’s taking away resources — or threatening it. I’m gonna take what the president’s offer to give us resources and that’s what I’m gonna focus on. And hopefully he’ll see that.”

RELATED: Officials in other U.S. ‘sanctuary cities’ also vow to resist Trump

Last month, Emanuel met privately with then-President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan to urge Trump not to deport young people in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.

The students, known as Dreamers, were protected under executive orders crafted by now-former President Barack Obama. Trump has vowed to repeal the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

On Wednesday, the mayor reiterated that plea to keep DACA in place.

“I believe firmly as it relates to Dreamers. These are kids who came to the United States — not on their own will. Their parents brought them. They are going to college, playing by the rules and doing right,” Emanuel said.

“They came forward with their name and basic information at the request of the government. There shouldn’t be a bait-and-switch. Dreamers are actually committed [to] the American dream. Everybody in this room … [is] the product of a Dreamer of one sort or another. And we should honor them rather than threaten them.”

After Trump’s stunning upset over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the mayor’s candidate, Emanuel predicted that the new president would back off from his threat to cut off millions in federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Emanuel served as a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and as former President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

He argued that Trump would have bigger fish to fry in a White House where it is “incoming all the time” and you’re dodging non-stop political fire.

The mayor turned out to be wrong.

The question now is, how much, if anything, it will cost Chicago to remain a sanctuary city. And how much money Emanuel is prepared to lose.

“I haven’t read the executive order. I don’t know what it is. I know the concept of what was discussed. … I want to be careful. I’m not addressing the executive order. I’m addressing what has been in the public domain,” the mayor said.

“The notion in the public domain is that there will be resources withdrawn unless you change your status. The president has offered and repeated that he wants to offer federal help as it relates to public safety. I’m gonna take him up on that offer which I have talked about as it relates to where the federal government can be a partner.”

The mayor’s reaffirmed his commitment to retain Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city after a City Council meeting where aldermen honored Archbishop Blase Cupich for his recent elevation to cardinal.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) told Cupich his calm and embracing leadership stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s nationalistic, anti-immigrant policies.

“You have the ability to raise your voice at a time when we have leadership in Washington that does not seem to be friends of the immigrants in this country,” Solis said.

Emanuel added, “You may speak to Catholics, but your voice is heard by all of us, people of all faiths” in a city where “we treat each other as neighbors.”

The mayor’s words of assurance — and the $1.3 million Legal Protection Fund he has created to protect illegal immigrants threatened with deportation under Trump were not enough for rookie Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

Ramirez-Rosa urged the mayor to “strengthen” Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance “by removing carve-outs and loopholes.”

Currently, Chicago Police officers are permitted to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if 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.

Ramirez-Rosa wants all of those exceptions eliminated. He argued that gang database is “like the no-fly list.”

“You don’t know you got on it and there is no way to get off it,” he said.

Ramirez-Rosa further argued that citizens are innocent until proven guilty and that immigrants are frequently charged for using fake Social Security numbers or for returning to the U.S. after being deported.