In response to President-elect Dona'd Trump's promise to crack down on illegal immigration his first day in office, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaims his commitment to uphold the city's thirty-year tradition of being a sanctuary city, the Tribune reports.
Among other things, Trump has promised to deport the 2-3 million undocumented aliens who have criminal records and to incarcerate individuals who return after being deported. He also plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico to discourage Mexicans from crossing the border illegally.
Emanuel has pointed out that, for the last three decades, Chicago has been a welcoming place for "all immigrants." It's a city that offers opportunities for upward mobility not only for newcomers, but especially for their children and grandchildren. He has reaffirmed Chicago's commitment to remaining a safe heaven for all arrivals, including the undocumented. Local laws prohibit police or other government authorities from asking about residents' immigration status.
Trump has vowed to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities. Right now, Chicago receives about a billion in federal grants. Monies are used to subsidize transportation and education projects, healthcare initiatives, and public aid programs. The city is counting on even more money next year.
Emanuel's pronouncement is certainly a political move and not really a commitment to support immigrants. Under the Clinton administration, Emanuel advocated for extensive immigration reform.
On the other hand, he supported Obama's "Dream Act" that gave protection to children brought to the US illegally who still reside here. He also stood behind Obama's other initiatives to allow illegal immigrants to stay and obtain work permits. He hasn't said anything about protecting illegals with criminal records.
I think it's also worth noting that not only has Emanuel taken his stance to maintain the support of foreign-born voters and their families, he's probably also doing it in open defiance of Trump, a candidate he hasn't supported.
I was surprised to learn the mayor isn't worried about losing federal funding. Perhaps he's not taking Trump seriously. It could also be that the potential for a fiscal crisis doesn't ruffle his feathers because he seems convinced that there is a surefire response to any budget shortfall: just keep raising taxes.
Furthermore, our city and country have reached a critical point when in order to be "pro-immigration," you have to support all immigration, even undocumented arrivals.
Immigrants have provided valuable skills and labor in this country from the beginning. Immigrants should be welcomed...when they go through the proper channels to get here. It is not acceptable to break the law to enter a country. Chicago should never have established itself as a sanctuary city. A municipality can't override federal law.
Trump stands behind deporting those with criminal records. Technically, all of them have criminal records if they are unauthorized to be here. That includes people who overstay their visas.
I don't believe I'm anti-immigrant in saying so. I realize many come here, legally or otherwise, to escape horrific conditions in their countries of origin. However, we can't receive everyone. With our economy barely treading water, we have to look out for the interests of our own citizens first.
Some people coming from poor or war-torn nations either need to seek asylum elsewhere or remain in their home countries to try to make people's lives better where they are. Escape may not be practical or possible.
If people from impoverished areas want to come here and work, that's understandable. Americans themselves, though, should be considered first for those jobs. Admittedly, there are many types of grueling work that most Americans just will not perform.
That's why we have guest worker programs. People can come here legally to work for a season or more and then return to their families. Hopefully, they've acquired some knowledge and been exposed to ideas that will help them improve conditions in their own communities.
Emanuel's defiant position will likely have consequences. I don't want the city to fall into an an economic abyss, but the federal government can't look the other way and ultimately condone unconscionable behavior.
If the city falls on especially hard times, it will definitely be a wake-up call for the mayor and those whose beliefs align with his.
It has often been said that necessity is the mother of invention. If Chicago is eventually denied federal subsidies, a time of turmoil will likely result. However, when faced with the stark reality that the city must be kept afloat, I believe people will become amazingly resourceful, finding ways to help each other, filling in the gaps that the government was once expected to take care of.
A crisis can become a teachable moment, a time for the city to return to our founding values and moral fiber and to take proactive, productive steps to turn things around for the better.
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