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Monday editorial: Stand your ground, Chicago, as a sanctuary city

In 2011 the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a common-sense ordinance to stop locking up undocumented immigrants for immigration violations without an order from a judge.

The so-called sanctuary ordinance requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get warrants if it wants cops to keep immigrants in jail. Chicago passed a similar Safe Families ordinance in 2012 that put an end to cops detaining immigrants solely because of alleged immigration violations.

An ill-advised partisan bill in the U.S. Senate that is expected to be called to a vote next week threatens to penalize Chicago, Cook County and at least 200 more municipalities for such ordinances. The bill is a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy and should be voted down. Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin-D, plans to vote against it, and we urge Illinois’ junior senator, Mark Kirk-R, to do the same.

EDITORIAL


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At stake is about $10.54 million in federal funding that Chicago and Cook County would lose if they maintain sanctuary status. Chicago would bear the brunt of the penalties, losing more than $3.12 million from the Cops on the Beat Program, nearly $2.6 million from the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and about $3.45 million from Community Development Block Grants.

These are tough financial times to lose millions, but the city and county got it right with the ordinances and should not be intimidated by the strong-arming.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced the bill, the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, that is being fast-tracked to a vote. Conveniently, Vitter is in a heated race for governor of Louisiana and the primary will be held Oct. 24. This is a tougher bill than one he introduced in July, just weeks after the murder of a San Francisco resident, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported multiple times. Against the backdrop of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., such crimes are rare.

Officials from municipalities around the country have expressed concern about being liable if someone is killed or injured while jailed, especially when no warrants have been sworn. This bill seeks to relieve municipalities of legal liabilities for complying with ICE detainers, but the constitutionality of this measure would be challenged in the courts quickly. If the bill passes, five-year mandatory minimum sentences would be imposed for those caught re-entering the country after deportations, which would harshly penalize many whose motivation for re-entry is to rejoin families living here.

This is what you get in the absence of common-sense immigration reform: Lawmakers who use the immigration debate for political advantage, and municipalities that say enough is enough.

We’re with the latter.

Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: @csteditorials

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