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City Set To Spend $1.3M On Immigrants, But Some Want Cash To Fight Crime

By Heather Cherone | December 13, 2016 3:58pm | Updated on December 14, 2016 10:47am
 Families become emotional describing the immigration issues that have separated them.
Families become emotional describing the immigration issues that have separated them.
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DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman

CITY HALL — A City Council committee Tuesday agreed to spend $1.3 million to defend immigrants threatened with deportation under President-elect Donald Trump.

While several aldermen praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to partner with the National Immigrant Protection Center, The Resurrection Project and the United African Organization to provide immediate legal information, screening and consultations for undocumented immigrants, two aldermen said any additional funds should be used to fight violence in Chicago.

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) cast the lone vote against the measure, which will be considered by the full City Council Wednesday.

About 150,000 Chicago area residents do not have status as legal permanent residents, and tens of thousands more are worried about their immigration status, according to the center. The additional money will help about 3,000 additional residents, officials said.

The money to start the legal defense fund will come from the $20 million set aside by the City Council to give Chicagoans earning less than $75,000 a rebate on their property taxes after the largest hike in the city's history.

Because only 11 percent of eligible Chicago homeowners have applied for the rebate — totaling approximately $1.9 million — the city is able to dip into that pot of money, said Budget Director Alexandra Holt.

The deadline to apply for the rebate is Dec. 30.

Saying she supported the push to help immigrants reeling from Trump's victory, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said at least some of the remaining money should be used to help Chicagoans suffering from the wave of violence that has killed more than 700 people. In all of 2015, just 494 people were murdered.

“I’d like to see the administration put the same amount of effort into creating a legal representation fund for all of those young black boys and black girls that are racially profiled in this city or are shot by the police unnecessarily," Dowell said.

Ald. David Moore (17th) said the leftover money should be used to fund CeaseFire, a violence suppression program that saw its funding cut by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Holt promised to return to the council to discuss how the rest of the funds would be spent.

Emanuel has said Chicago will remain a sanctuary city despite President-elect Donald Trump's promise to withhold federal funds from municipalities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Trump made immigration a central issue of the presidential campaign. He has vowed to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

In addition, Trump vowed to impose financial penalties on sanctuary cities that shelter undocumented immigrants. There are 37 sanctuary cities in the United States.

City officials are expected to establish a municipal identification card for undocumented immigrants next year.

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