PILSEN — Chicago’s status as a “welcoming” city was called into question Monday by longtime Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who accused the Chicago Police Department of violating the city’s sanctuary ordinance when they raided a Pilsen mini-mart and detained an undocumented mother of three.
At 8:30 a.m. Aug. 1, local and federal officers raided a convenience store at the corner of 18th and Ashland, Solis said. The raid was triggered by a complaint that counterfeit sports jerseys and hats were being sold at Amego Mini Mart, 1724 S. Ashland Ave. During the operation, police seized 500 alleged counterfeit sports items, he said.
Federal authorities, who were a part of the investigation working with CPD, the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, the city’s Department of Health and the Cook County Intellectual Property Task Force, questioned a store employee during the raid, who was arrested and detained, Solis and police said.
According to the complaint filed by Solis and those familiar with the case, the operation involved 25 police officers, 15 squad cars, “at least one county sheriff, two people from the state attorney’s office, two people from Homeland Security and a number of people from the city including Business Affairs, Health and Building.”
The veteran Pilsen alderman said the raid resulted in the arrest and detention of an undocumented mother of three, who worked as a cashier, at the shop.
After being alerted to the raid, he went on to file a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and Inspector General’s office, accusing the police department of violating the Welcoming City Ordinance — Chicago’s sanctuary city law. The ordinance reinforces local policies “to help ensure undocumented residents are not prosecuted solely due to their immigration status.”
“Why was homeland security there? This was a violation of the Welcoming City Ordinance in my opinion,” Solis told Block Club Chicago.
“I don’t understand why they needed 25 police officers, 15 police vehicles…, and be there from 8:30 a.m. to 2 in the afternoon when we have a lot of serious crimes going on in our city,” Solis added.
Chicago Police Deny Participating in the Arrest
In an email statement, a Chicago Police Department spokesman said the detention of the undocumented woman “was never the intended outcome.”
“We’re not happy about it and CPD will work with the city law department to explore what options are available to us as a city,” the statement continued. “Under no circumstance does or will CPD conduct any type of immigration enforcement and we do not partner with any immigration enforcement efforts.”
The police department said it “stands firmly behind Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance because it is integral to our community policing philosophy.”
Last Friday, Solis said he was briefed by the police commander in charge of the raid and was not satisfied with the answers the commander provided. Solis remains unconvinced that the commander didn’t break the sanctuary ordinance.
“They cooperated with Homeland Security and now this woman, a mother of three U.S. citizens … who was not in charge of the store is sitting in detention right now,” Solis said.
The alderman called for an independent investigation into the operation to find out what can be done to strengthen the Welcoming City Ordinance and prevent this from happening again.
A Resurrection Project representative said the store owner alerted the alderman about the operation that led to his employee’s arrest. The nonprofit, which sits across the street from the mini-mart, worked with Solis to piece together the events that led to the arrest and detention of the undocumented woman.
Erendira Rendon, vice president of immigration advocacy at the Resurrection Project, said after the alderman’s office confirmed the operation was a joint effort between the two agencies, they “felt it was important… to call attention to this incident and make sure that whoever authorized… and handed [the undocumented woman] over to [The Department of Homeland Security] and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is held accountable.”
“Undocumented people work all over the city and just going to work shouldn’t get them into trouble especially when it was clear they weren’t going in there for any immigration purposes,” Rendon said referring to the raid.
Rendon said she is now focused on figuring out how often the Welcoming City Ordinance has been violated by police – and making sure it doesn’t happen again.
In his letter to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), Solis outlined the Aug. 1 raid.
During the raid to investigate alleged counterfeit items, the sales clerk “was interrogated by CPD about the origins of the t-shirts sold at Amego Mart.” The woman repeatedly stated she did not know where the shirts originated from.
“When CPD discovered the [woman] was undocumented, CPD released her into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security,” Solis wrote in the letter.
The woman was arrested by Homeland Security and is being detained at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center at the McHenry County Jail, according to the complaint.
Police Cmdr. “Karen Konow, was present at the operation on Wednesday, August 1st. The undocumented woman’s encounter with CPD’s Vice/Asset Forfeiture Division and Cmdr. Konow, and their decision and consent to release her to DHS is the sole reason for [the woman’s] detainment and impending deportation,” the letter stated.
Solis urged the two agencies to investigate the Vice/Asset Forfeiture division and determine how many times this unit has collaborated with the Department of Homeland Security, and whether the collaborations have led to the detainment and deportation of immigrants.
Solis said he was waiting to speak with Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel regarding the raid.
According to the Sun-Times, which first reported on the raid, Johnson denied his officers were involved in the arrest.
In the article, Johnson said the agency is part of a “task force that [the] Cook County sheriff’s [department] drive. They’re the experts in copyright infringement and fraudulent materials. These particular stores commit crimes that usually develop into larger crimes. It is very rare that a store employee is even arrested or removed from an establishment of this type,” Johnson said.
“We had no part in that particular incident. Homeland Security sits on that task force also. They questioned the person independently and, independently of CPD, did whatever it is they do. But, no. We didn’t violate anything. We don’t get involved in that,” Johnson said. “I said it from Day One.”
Welcoming City Ordinance
In 2016, City Council approved an ordinance amendment on Emanuel’s original 2013 Welcoming City ordinance. The ordinance limits interactions police and other city employees have with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
As part of the ordinance, local officials are not allowed to ask a person’s immigration status or turn undocumented immigrants over to federal agents.
President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly slammed Chicago and other “sanctuary cities” for their reluctance to cooperate with ICE, and threatened to yank federal funds. Those actions were ultimately blocked by a federal judge.
The 2016 amendment provided additional protections to undocumented immigrants, barring city officials from threatening to reveal the immigration status of a person to federal officials or verbally abusing immigrants based on their race, citizenship, or country of origin.
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