Undocumented immigrants who witness crimes or are victims themselves would have nothing to fear from Chicago Police--and no excuse to avoid cooperating with them--under a mayoral plan approved by the City Council Wednesday.
"It is incredibly important for good policing to foster trust and good communication with every single ethnic community in our city--and that's what this ordinance does," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th), chairman of the City Council's Human Relations Committee.
"If someone is the victim of a crime. If someone has knowledge of an impending crime or knowledge of a crime that's been committed, they can turn to the Chicago Police Department and not have any fear that they will be arrested on an unrelated issue, torn assunder from their family or deported from our nation."
Emanuel added,"We are a city of immigrants. Always will be and always have been...As the grandson and the son of an immigrant, this is true to who we are as a city. I'm glad the city of Chicago led the nation in setting down a clear path as it relates to how we welcome all immigrants to the most American of American cities."
The so-called "Welcome City" ordinance would prohibit police from detaining undocumented immigrants unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have been convicted of a serious crime.
In 1985, then-Mayor Harold Washington issued an executive order prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws. He made the move to protest the federal government's decision to question people seeking city services and conduct random searches of city records in an effort to find undocumented immigrants.
Four years later, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley affirmed the executive order. In 2006, the City Council turned the order into law as the immigration debate raged on in Congress.
City agencies don't ask about the immigration status of people seeking city services. Chicago Police don't question the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or other law-abiding citizens.
Despite that city policy, there remains a "legal loophole" that needed to be closed, according to Adolfo Hernandez, director of the city's new Office of New Americans.
When Chicago Police make a stop, run a criminal background check and find a deportation order, there has been no specific standard on what they should do amid mounting pressure from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to "turn them over," he said.
As a result, a 54-year-old mother from Cameroon stopped last February after failing to signal a turn was detained for two nights after police found a deportation order on her record.
The case of Rose Tchakounte--who was turned over to ICE, but never deported--became a cause célèbre for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.