CITY HALL — Chicago aldermen Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump's decision to wind down the program that protects young undocumented immigrants, calling the move "racist" and "evil."
For the second day in a row, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to reassure students in the program and undocumented immigrants living in the city that they had nothing to worry about despite the Trump administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
"Go to school, go to work without any sense of increased vulnerability," Emanuel said during Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Condemning Trump's action, the mayor introduced a resolution that promised to establish a legal defense fund to help participants in the program, known as "Dreamers." The measure did not say how much money city officials planned to earmark for the legal defense fund.
The Council could establish the fund at its meeting next month.
During a news conference after Wednesday's Council meeting, Emanuel said the action Trump took Tuesday "was not consistent" with what Trump told him during the first meeting between the political foes at Trump Tower in New York City in December. Emanuel gave Trump, then president-elect, a letter signed by 14 mayors from across the country urging him to continue the DACA program.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said Tuesday that Trump "looked me in the eye and said: 'Don't worry. We are going to take care of those kids.'"
Emanuel said the fact that Trump has repeatedly said one thing and done another "would come back to haunt" his presidency.
Emanuel grew emotional when asked about the DACA participants who had dinner at his Ravenswood home a few weeks after Trump took office in November.
Emanuel said one of the students who attended that dinner reached out to his wife, Amy Rule, and expressed concerns about her future.
"I don't think any of us can fully appreciate the sense of vulnerability these children feel," Emanuel said, adding that attendance at Chicago schools dropped significantly in the days after Trump's election. "There is a palpable sense of fear that that the United States government could rip these kids from their parents.
"[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has no operable place in Chicago," Emanuel said, his voice rising in anger.
Emanuel called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to use his power to protect undocumented Illinois residents from what he called Trump's "careless act."
"Our job is not to hide behind legal principles," Emanuel said.
Emanuel recounted a trip he took with U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley to Phoenix Military Academy on the West Side. During a roundtable discussion, one of the students said he wanted to go to West Point.
Milley offered to write him a letter of recommendation, but the teen told the general he was not eligible to attend the miliary academy because he was undocumented. Emanuel said the teen — and all of his friends — started to cry.
"We should be proud of them," Emanuel said. "We should protect and encourage them as our own."
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) called Trump's action — which could lead to the deportation of 20,000 young people in Illinois in six months — "heartless and evil."
"We have to organize," Solis said, likening Trump's order to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said Trump's decision to end the program was a "clear racist act."
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said the Council must meet Trump's rhetoric "with action," and asked his colleagues to adopt a resolution that would strengthen Chicago's "sanctuary city" ordinance and close what he called "loopholes" in the ordinance.
Trump has made immigration one of the central focuses of his administration, pushing plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and cracking down on the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
About 600 immigrants and refugees have gotten legal help from a $1.3 million legal defense fund set up by the city in January.
The fund also 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 on immigration issues.
Current DACA program participants will be allowed to continue working until their permits expire. Those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5, officials said.
That would give Congress six months to enshrine the program into law before deportations would be allowed to start, officials said.
Read the full resolution: