As President Donald Trump’s efforts to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities and ban entry from six predominantly Muslim countries wind their way through litigation, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Sunday again reaffirmed Chicago as a welcoming city.
Joined by U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Danny Davis, City Clerk Anna Valencia and myriad immigrant advocacy groups, Emanuel unveiled a One Chicago campaign designed to highlight the city’s vast diversity and immigrant roots.
“Chicago is a city of immigrants. Our diversity is our strength. No matter the road you traveled to get here, Chicago will always be a welcoming city,” he said at a DuSable Museum of African American History event.
Borne out of the Chicago Is With You task force initiated in December by Emanuel, Gutierrez and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, to confront challenges facing the city’s 560,000 foreign-born residents after the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric of the presidential election, One Chicago created a new website, www.onechi.org.
Providing immigrants with targeted city resources, it also features an audiovisual series of diverse Chicagoans sharing stories of how they came to call the city home. The snippets all have one message: “Three million residents. Three million stories. Three million reasons to stand together.”
“Each story is unique, but out of many stories comes one story,” said Emanuel, who choked up sharing his own. Emanuel talked about his immigrant grandfather, who came here from Moldova to escape the pogroms of eastern Europe, and how that story colored his parent’s upbringing — and his own.
Last week, a U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments in litigation over Trump’s travel ban, which seeks to pause the refugee resettlement program and prohibit immigration from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Lower courts have ruled the executive order is driven by unconstitutional religious animus.
Trump’s efforts to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, which refuse or limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement, also was temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions charge that sanctuary cities harbor lawbreakers.
“There couldn’t be a better, more appropriate place than the DuSable in which to launch this effort. As African Americans, as black people, we came here by evil means. We built this country upon the scarred backs of shattered families,” DuSable President/CEO Perri Irmer said.
“But today’s truth, in this frighteningly regressive climate of racism and hatred and intolerance, is that although we may have come to America in different ways and on different boats, we are all in the same boat now. We are all Americans,” Irmer said.
One Chicago, produced by the Ogilvy Chicago ad firm, seeks to remind Chicagoans that the immigrant story is everyone’s story, said Valencia, who co-chaired the task force. “These past few months have shown that now, more than ever, we must come together as one community to combat hate, discrimination and fear. The task force will continue to be light for those who live among the shadows,” she said.
David Hernandez, Ogilvy’s executive creative director, felt equally convicted about his firm’s efforts. “My dad’s family were immigrants from Mexico seeking a better life. My mother was a Latvian refugee, born in the camps in Germany at the end of the war. And I’m 100 percent Chicagoan,” he said.
The campaign will be featured in TV and radio public service announcements; on bus shelters, news racks and digital billboards, and posters throughout the city.
Another speaker, Rebecca Shi, executive director of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, shared how her undocumented mother, a medical doctor, hid in the shadows for 19 years before gaining citizenship. Her mother worked in Chinese restaurants to put her daughter through the University of Chicago.
“With the election of President Donald J. Trump, immigrant has become a bad word,” Shi said.