Immigrant groups ask Lightfoot to nix CPD-ICE teamwork

Alderman Ramirez-Rosa asks mayor to issue executive order backing up public statements

Backed by Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa calls on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an executive order banning collaboration between police and federal immigration agents. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Backed by Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa calls on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an executive order banning collaboration between police and federal immigration agents. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Immigration activists prepared their communities for raids set to start on Sunday and in the meantime called on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to explicitly ban collaboration between police and federal agents.

“The Trump administration is threatening our communities again,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the West Suburban Action Project at a news conference held Thursday outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Building in Chicago. “We are ready to defend each other and defend our community, and we’re organized.”

President Trump threatened widespread raids in cities including Chicago two weeks ago, but held off on ordering them. Activists said they now expect the raids to begin Sunday, with as many as 6,000 undocumented U.S. immigrants targeted across the nation.

Rey Wences of the Chicago Immigration Policy Working Group said it has asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot to “put in writing what she’s been saying she’s been doing” through an executive order explicitly barring collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

As recently as Wednesday, Lightfoot said in public that the CPD would not be aiding federal agents in immigration raids. But the Immigration Working Group and Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said they have asked for that to be made explicit through an executive order.

According to Wences, the Lightfoot administration responded that “they have to look at it,” but she called on the mayor to make it plain that CPD would not work with ICE agents or Department of Homeland Security personnel, and that CPD would commit to not turn over any undocumented immigrants to ICE without an arrest warrant first being issued.

“Talk is cheap and words are not enough,” Wences said.


“Talk is cheap and words are not enough.”

Rey Wences of the Chicago Immigration Policy Working Group (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

“To date, we have not received any written directive that Mayor Lightfoot has issued to CPD,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “We are calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to take the words that she said yesterday and put them in an executive order so they have the full force of law.

“It is our belief that she has not issued an executive order,” he added, “and that is what we’re asking her to do.”

“We ask that the city ensure that there is no collaboration,” said Ruiz-Velasco, “no police and ICE collaboration.”

In response, the Lightfoot administration pulled up short of seeing the need for an executive order while emphasizing its commitment to the issue. “As a Welcoming City, Chicago will never tolerate the threat of ICE forcing our residents and families to live in fear,” said Lightfoot spokeswoman Lauren Huffman. “Earlier this month, Mayor Lightfoot was definitive in her directive to CPD not to cooperate with or facilitate any ICE effort to target migrant families, and we will continue to object to any planned raids this weekend. The city continues to work closely with community groups and other organizations in the face of this latest threat and to continue defending the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities who call Chicago home.”

“Our communities have been in constant fear of detention, deportation, and family separation,” said Evelyn Venegas Cuzco of ICIRR. She encouraged worried residents to call the organization’s Family Support Hotline at (855) 435-7693.

“We want to remind everyone that, no matter what your status is in this country, you have rights,” said Ruth Lopez-McCarthy of the National Immigrant Justice Center. She advised those confronted by immigration agents to remain silent and to walk away unless placed under arrest, as they’re not actually police officers, adding that residents have a right to privacy and to due process as well as a phone call if detained.

Justin Valas of Asian Americans Advancing Justice said the issue dovetailed with President Trump’s ongoing demand for a citizenship question to be added to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Although U.S. Justice Department attorneys announced last week they were dropping their pursuit of a citizenship question on the census, after it was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump has persisted in demanding it, even suggesting he could issue an executive order to include it. Late Thursday, he abandoned that approach, but instead issued an executive order calling for other government agencies to compile citizenship data.

“The president's directive today suggests he is conceding that he cannot legitimately add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census,” Lightfoot replied in a statement. “Though today's events represent a victory for our country, we will remain vigilant against attempts to divide our residents and scare our families into the shadows of our society. Any effort to undercut a complete count of every individual affects not only our immigrant communities but also the cities and states in which they live. Chicago will always be a Welcoming City and we will never stop working to ensure the rights of every resident in every community are respected and protected.”

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago chimed in, calling it “nothing more than a pathetic attempt to save face in light of certain defeat. President Trump’s claim that he would defy the Supreme Court decision by issuing an executive order was unconscionable, un-American, and in direct conflict with the fundamental separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.” He added that the controversy “should serve as a reminder that we must remain vigilant against a president who will stop at nothing to advance an agenda of division and hate.”

Valas said the president was injecting “unnecessary confusion” into the process.

“We’re seeing two fearmongering white-supremacist tactics coming together — immigration raids and ramped-up enforcement paired with renewed administration attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census,” Valas said, adding that they were “creating fear in communities across the state.”

Although Trump has insisted the citizenship question is benign, critics have said it could discourage participation in the census by immigrant communities, and Valas said those fears were valid given the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“We’ve already seen the connection between census and incarceration,” he said. “The government used census data to send 120,000 Japanese Americans to concentration camps right here in the United States.

“The Trump administration’s actions to separate families and ramp up deportations creates legitimate fear that a citizenship question could be used to imprison and deport entire communities,” Valas added.

Activists urged interested citizens to attend a rally to “End Detention, Welcome Immigrants” set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington Blvd.