Immigration activists are accusing Chicago Police officers of violating a 2006 ordinance that dubbed Chicago a “sanctuary city” for undocumented people by prohibiting city agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials.
At the center of the allegations is Rose Tchakounte, a Cameroonian asylum seeker, who has been in federal custody since she was pulled over during a routine traffic stop on Feb. 15. When Tchakoute showed Chicago police an international driver’s license, the officer checked her record and found she had an immigration warrant. Police arrested her and turned her over to the U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agency, said Tchakoute’s son Cesar Kamga.
By Friday morning, Tchakoute was issued an order of deportation, which means she can be deported at any time. She was released Friday afternoon with an order of supervision, said Monica Trevino, spokesperson for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
This isn't Tchakounte's first brush with immigration authorities. She came into the country legally in 2001 and applied for asylum. She was rejected the first time but appealed the decision. Her attorney failed to tell her when the next court hearing was and she didn't show up to the hearing – that’s when the warrant was issued, her son said.
Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the immigration enforcement agency, said that a federal immigration judge granted Tchakounte "voluntary departure" on Sept. 17, 2002. She became an "immigration fugitive" two years later when the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed her appeal.
Tchakounte left Cameroon in 2001 after she was arrested by the government. She was an active member of a Christian organization that sought justice for children who had disappeared.
“She’s been persecuted in my country,” Kamga said during a press conference Friday morning. “She can’t go back. She’ll risk her life if she goes back.”
Members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights say that Tchakounte's detention is a clear example of Chicago police violating the sanctuary ordinance, which has been on the books for six years now.
“Chicago Police have violated the Chicago 'sanctuary' ordinance instilled fear in the immigrant community, wasted precious taxpayer dollars and put a family at high risk of long-term separation,” the coalition's board president Alie Kabba says. “Sadly, Rose’s case does not appear to be an isolated incident.”
© Community Renewal Society 2012