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600 Immigrants Helped By City Defense Fund Set Up After Trump's Election

By Heather Cherone | July 13, 2017 12:25pm | Updated on July 14, 2017 11:35am
 City officials must do more to protect undocumented immigrants in Chicago, representatives of several groups made up of Black and Latino Chicagoans said Thursday.
City officials must do more to protect undocumented immigrants in Chicago, representatives of several groups made up of Black and Latino Chicagoans said Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Six hundred immigrants and refugees have gotten legal help from the $1.3 million legal defense fund set up by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump.

In addition, the fund paid to train 300 "community navigators" who educated 11,000 immigrants "to make sure they know and understand their legal rights," according to a statement from the mayor's office.

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 National Immigrant Justice Center, one of the groups working with the city through the fund.

When Emanuel proposed the fund — which was the subject of heated debate before being approved by the City Council — his office said it would help 3,000 residents. A spokeswoman for the mayor did not immediately know how much money is left in the fund.

Money for the legal defense fund came 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. Only a fraction of that money was claimed.

Trump has made immigration one of the central focuses of his administration, pushing forward with plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and cracking down on the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

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

While that effort has been thwarted — for now — by court rulings, a bill passed by the U.S. House would impose stiff financial penalties on sanctuary cities. The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Earlier this week, the Illinois Chapter of American Civil Liberties Union urged Emanuel and the City Council to do more to protect undocumented immigrants in Chicago, adding its name to demands made by representatives of several groups made up of Black and Latino Chicagoans shortly after Trump's inauguration.

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