Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he wants to make Chicago one of the most "immigrant friendly" cities in the country.
To achieve that goal, Emanuel opened the Office of New Americans in City Hall to help legal residents become U.S. Citizens. And a month ago, he joined forces with a former political foe U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, to introduce a new city ordinance that would amend an existing city ordinance and clarify when city workers, including police officers, should turn over undocumented immigrants to federal immigration officials.
The ordinance was introduced July 25 but so far not much has happened and many immigration activist and undocumented immigrants already view Chicago as a "sanctuary city." So what exactly will the "Welcoming City ordinance" really do?
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an immigration law expert, reviewed the ordinance and explained the changes:
"(The ordinance) clarifies the conditions under which city officials may not inquire about immigration status or communicate with DHS about a person's immigration status, and the conditions under which a city official may communicate with DHS about immigration status," said Garcia, who is also an assistant professor of immigration law at Capital University.
The biggest change, Garcia points out, is that the new ordinance prohibits city agents from abiding by immigration detainers. This is limited to immigration official's inquiries about violations of civil immigration laws. It does not prohibit city officials from cooperating with federal immigration investigations of criminal immigration law provisions.
In simple terms, Chicago police will not turn over undocumented immigrants if during an arrest, police officers find an outstanding deportation order or other civil immigration offenses, said Fred Tsao, policy director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Tsao worked closely with Emanuel's team to write the ordinance after ICIRR criticised Emanuel's administration in February when Rose Tchakounte, a Cameroonian asylum seeker, was turned over to immigration officials and placed in deportation proceedings after Chicago police stopped her for a minor traffic violation. ICIRR accused Emanuel's administration of not complying with the previous sanctuary city ordinance. Tsao said Emanuel's administration contacted ICIRR soon after the press conference.
Tsao said he's pleased to see the mayor involved in the ordinance, which has a lot of weight in getting it passed.
"When the mayor himself introduces the ordinance, the mayor gets his way," Tsao said. "(The administration) spent a considerable amount of time on this. The city council has been very positive on immigration related manners."
Some immigration activist have doubts about whether Emanuel is really concerned about undocumented immigrants.
During his time working for President Barack Obama as the Chief of Staff, he advised the president against using his political power to introduce or help other legislators work towards reforming the country's immigration system.
And despite his busy, busy schedule Emanuel made time to meet with millionaires who are against undocumented immigrants, according to the Chicago Readers' series "the mayor's millionaire club."
"Emanuel has a propensity for meeting with powerful bankers. On November 30 the mayor slated 45 minutes for Jim Rohr, the $16-million-a-year CEO of PNC Bank, a donor to Romney, the Republican National Committee, conservative former senator Rick Santorum, and the Eagle Forum, which is dedicated to cracking down on "illegal aliens," according to the story.
This leaves immigration activists wondering if Emanuel is pro-immigrant in the public eye but not so much behind closed doors.
© Community Renewal Society 2012