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Sanctuary City Ordinance Signed Into Law, Better Protecting Chicago’s Immigrants From ICE

The Welcoming City ordinance closes loopholes that allowed the Police Department to work with ICE, protecting undocumented immigrants.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at a news conference after receiving her second COVID-19 vaccine in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood on Feb. 19, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Undocumented Chicagoans will be better protected from Immigration and Customs Enforcement under an ordinance signed into law Tuesday.

The Welcoming City ordinance closes loopholes that allowed the Police Department to work with ICE in some scenarios — and thereby further protecting undocumented immigrants from being deported. Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed the ordinance Tuesday after City Council voted to approve it in late January.

The signing closes “a long journey to fulfill Chicago’s promise of being a more open and welcoming city for all of our residents …,” Lightfoot said. “Chicago has been built and molded and charted by all of those who came to our city to build a better life for themselves and their families.

“… That heritage of our immigrant and refugee communities is a source of communities [and it] sets us apart from other places on the planet and is one that we should celebrate and cherish.”

Previously, Chicago police could work with ICE if a person under investigation had an outstanding criminal warrant, a felony conviction, was a defendant in a pending criminal case with felony charges or had been identified as gang member in the Police Department’s database. The Welcoming City ordinance eliminated those exceptions.

The ordinance also requires Chicago officers to work with victims and witnesses who reports crimes, regardless of their immigration status, and mandates survivors who help with investigations are provided paperwork to obtain a U Visa.

The ordinance also replaces the word “citizen” with terms like “resident” and “person” in Chicago’s municipal code, a move Lightfoot said make’s the code more inclusive.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who cosponsored the ordinance and was at the signing, said it was a day to be celebrated.

Before the ordinance, undocumented Chicagoans could be deported before having their day in court or because they were listed in the city’s often-criticized gang database, despite having no way to appeal their inclusion, Ramirez-Rosa said.

Now, undocumented Chicagoans will be better protected, and they’ll be able to call the police for help without worrying about officers turning them over to ICE, Ramirez-Rosa said.

“Today is such a beautiful day because we’re finally going to make sure that in the city of Chicago our local officials, our local police cannot work with ICE in any case — no exceptions,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Still, more work needs to be done, Ramirez-Rosa said.

Lightfoot said the Welcoming City ordinance is “not just a feel-good policy,” as it will have real impacts on people’s day-to-day lives.

“Being a welcoming city means being a city that embraces people equally with open arms, where no one has to fear being their authentic self, walking down the street, doing business, earning a living and taking care of their family. A place where people can come and know that they are safe and protected no matter who they are and where they come from,” Lightfoot said.

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