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Alderman Urges Rahm To Protect Immigrants: 'Less Symbolism, More Action'

By Mina Bloom | November 28, 2016 5:37am | Updated on December 2, 2016 11:37am
 Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said the mayor's recent pledge to remain a
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said the mayor's recent pledge to remain a "sanctuary" city isn't enough.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung (File)

LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) is calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to extend protection for undocumented immigrants before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Ramirez-Rosa said the mayor's recent pledge to remain a "sanctuary" city isn't enough.

"While [the mayor's speech] was necessary and powerful, what we really need is less symbolism and more action," Ramirez-Rosa said.

The alderman worked with the Chicago Immigration Working Group, which is made up of more than 14 immigrations rights organizations, to come up with a seven-point plan that would strengthen protection for immigrants.

Trump during a recent interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" said he would "immediately" deport up to 3 million immigrants who are "criminal and have criminal records," citing "gang members, drug dealers.

"We are getting them out of the country, or we are going to incarcerate," Trump said.

Ramirez-Rosa said, "It's extremely important that we are doing everything we possibly can to push back on the deportations Trump is promising. This is going to completely paralyze immigrant communities."

First, the alderman wants to defend and strengthen the existing "Welcoming City" ordinance, which would include removing categories of people who are exempt from protection.

He is proposing the city work with experts and policy-makers to limit the amount of information shared about undocumented immigrants and designate municipal buildings including schools, ward offices and police departments as "sanctuary" spaces.

"We've seen a spike in hate crimes, and we've also seen many people in fear," Ramirez-Rosa said. "We want to make sure Chicago is responsive to those fears."

The alderman also wants the city to provide free or low-cost legal representation for undocumented immigrants and revisit criminal justice reform, particularly crackdowns on drunken driving.

A 2015 DNAinfo investigation showed the police department ignored districts with the most DUI arrests and instead held multiple drunken-driving crackdowns in districts serving black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The Department of Homeland Security named immigrants with DUIs as one of its "priorities" for deportation.

Lastly, Ramirez-Rosa is calling on the mayor, along with Gov. Bruce Rauner, to support statewide and federal policies that would protect undocumented immigrants, such as the TRUST Act and the Student Access Bill.

"I'm calling on the mayor to seriously look at these policies and implement them before Jan. 20," he said, referring to the date Trump will be sworn into office. "We don't know what a Trump regime will look like ... What we can do is organize our communities and be prepared."

Ramirez-Rosa said he has the support of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and the City Council's Latino Caucus.

He is pushing the mayor to issue an executive order to implement the new policies, which is how Mayor Harold Washington made Chicago a "sanctuary" city in 1985.

The mayor's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

Stronger policies would also help Chicago catch up to other major "sanctuary" cities like New York City and San Francisco, Ramirez-Rosa said.

"We're not reinventing the wheel here. These are policies that other cities have implemented," he said.

To bolster the plan, the alderman is launching a series of workshops to help undocumented immigrants in the 35th Ward understand their rights.

Other community initiatives like a phone tree to help notify residents when an agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in the neighborhood are in the works, he said.

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