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Chicago Needs Help With Gun Violence, Not More Immigration Agents: Sheriff

By Heather Cherone | July 19, 2017 4:41pm | Updated on July 23, 2017 10:00am
 Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said federal officials should focus on stopping violent crime, not immigration enforcement.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said federal officials should focus on stopping violent crime, not immigration enforcement.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CHICAGO — There is no need for the Trump administration to send more immigration enforcement agents to Chicago as part of a promised crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Wednesday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that the Trump administration "plans to flood sanctuary cities" with new agents. Many of the 10,000 new employees will be assigned to locate and deport undocumented immigrants in cities where officials refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents, Homan said.

"I would suggest that is not the best use of their time and resources," Dart said, adding that he had not been notified of anything officially by the Trump administration. "We have a lot of shootings, a lot of homicides going on in our city right now."

Dart said he has sent "numerous letters" to federal officials asking for help to stop the violence sweeping Chicago's South and West sides.

"I would really love for them to respond to that and help us in those areas," Dart said. "I don't understand how [assigning more ICE agents to Chicago] would help stem this violence. If the federal government wants to be helpful in that area, we need it."

The Sheriff's Department sees no connection between Chicago's status as a sanctuary city and violent crime.

Nearly a month ago, President Donald Trump announced that Chicago violence had reached "epidemic proportions" in a tweet.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly criticized Chicago for declaring itself a "sanctuary city," saying those policies tie the hands of law enforcement by "undermining federal laws that would remove criminal, illegal aliens from the streets and remove them from this country."

Federal officials announced June 30 that 20 new agents would join an expanded Chicago bureau of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Those agents are part of the newly formed Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force that "will work exclusively on stemming the flow of illegal guns throughout Chicago and the targeted enforcement of repeat gun offenders," officials said.

In addition, the ATF deployed a high-tech van in Chicago that can immediately test guns and shell casings at crime scenes throughout the city.

The van first hit Chicago's streets three weeks ago, and is scheduled to remain in the city until the end of July — but local officials said they would ask Sessions to allow the van to stay until Labor Day.

Violence in Chicago has remained higher throughout 2017 than it was in years past, and there have been about as many people killed in shootings this year as in 2016.

Trump has repeatedly criticized violence in Chicago, asking at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 21: "Look at Chicago. What the hell is going on in Chicago? What's that all about?"

Trump has asked that question in some form nearly a dozen times since taking office.

In response to Trump's taunts and tweets, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly asked for more federal agents to combat crime in violence-plagued neighborhoods, after-school help for Chicago's kids and renovating mass transit that runs through the South and West sides.

Matt McGrath, a spokesman for Emanuel, who was in Europe Wednesday, noted that Homan told reporters that there is no evidence to suggest undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans.

"This is more misdirection from the Trump administration, designed to play to the president's political base rather than support public safety," McGrath said in a statement. "Chicago will continue to stand by our values, continue to be a welcoming city to all, and — like other cities — will continue doing so in compliance with federal law."

Trump has vowed to impose financial penalties on sanctuary cities that shelter undocumented immigrants. There are 37 sanctuary cities in the United States, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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 month, 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.