Threatened ICE raids breed fear, sap economy
Chicago aldermen join to protect communities, decry ‘political calculation by a failed racist president’
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — More than a dozen Chicago aldermen joined Wednesday in a “coalition” to protect their communities from immigration raids and decry what they called President Trump’s “false narrative” on immigrants.
In a news conference at City Hall, they emphasized that all Chicago residents feel the impact and the anxiety of Trump’s threatened raids by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Although the actual raids have yet to materialize, as threatened last week by the president, they charged it was already having an impact on neighborhood commerce.
Alderman Michael Rodriguez of the Southwest Side said his 22nd Ward has “the highest concentration of immigrants in the Midwest.” He called the stretch of 26th Street running through the Little Village neighborhood “the second Magnificent Mile,” after Chicago’s glitzy Michigan Avenue downtown.
Yet Rodriguez added that he’s noticed “significant drop-offs in the number of people present in our business district,” as residents stay home out of fear of getting swept up in an ICE raid.
“These raids that have been promised by the president have already had an impact,” he said. “They’ve had an impact on every single citizen regardless of status, regardless of ethnicity in our city.
“These raids are having a negative economic impact on our society,” he added.
Calling her Albany Park neighborhood “incredibly diverse,” Alderman Rossana Rodriguez said, “There are undocumented people of every origin in my community, and they are all equally scared.”
“There’s a variety of communities impacted by this, not just Latinx communities,” Michael Rodriguez added. “There are eastern Europeans, Africans, Asian immigrants.”
As a group, the aldermen committed to using their ward offices as information and resource centers, encouraging their city ward superintendents to act as eyes and ears on any ICE raids. They called on businesses to insist on the same right to privacy as residents, meaning ICE agents require warrants to enter. They also said they’d be submitting amendments to Chicago’s Welcoming Ordinance at next week’s City Council meeting to strengthen local legal protections for immigrants. And they called on the rest of Chicago’s 50 aldermen to join their efforts.
Alderman Andres Vazquez of the North Side 40th Ward said he’d put together a rapid-response team called the “ICE Breakers” to deal with any raids. On immigrants, he said, “In Chicago, not only are you welcome. You’re protected, and you’re part of our family.”
“It touches all of us,” said Alderman Matt Martin, including his well-to-do Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side. “It’s so critical for everyone throughout this city to come together and say an attack against any one of our communities, any one of our neighbors, is an attack against all of us.”
Alex Han, vice president of the Service Employees International Healthcare Illinois union representing 65,000 workers, said many of his members feel even more dread either living outside Chicago, where they feel less protected, or commuting to work outside the city.
He echoed Martin on unity, saying, “In the labor movement, we have a saying that an injury to one is an injury to all. That’s a guiding principle of our movement. That is how workers organize and fight for better treatment on the job. And that is how we see our communities and our neighborhoods in our state and in our country as well.”
According to SEIU Healthcare, three separate facilities offering long-term care on the outskirts of Chicago were visited by ICE agents Tuesday conducting audits on worker documentation.
“We condemn this and any worker harassment activity by ICE — and we condemn the hate-filled rhetoric and misguided leadership of Donald Trump, which is fueling this increase in ICE activity,” said SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley. “Nursing-home workers care for our seniors and some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and ICE activity targeting nursing-home workers is both inhumane and unacceptable. No one should have to fear that going to work will result in being deported. Targeting workers who care for the most vulnerable is particularly reprehensible.”
“As an immigrant myself, I take this very personal,” said Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez of the Southwest Side. “This is not the society that we want. How we’re hurting our community and economy is unacceptable.”
“This is not the society that we want. How we’re hurting our community and economy is unacceptable.”
Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Sigcho-Lopez blamed President Trump for creating the chaos, calling his campaign against immigrants of all sorts “a political calculation by a failed racist president.”
Trump faced a resolution condemning him as a racist in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday after tweeting that four minority women in Congress should “go back” to their home countries.
Michael Rodriguez called out the president’s immigration policy as an “insane, inhumane, and may I say racist effort by our president” to cut off his political base from the rest of U.S. society.
“Let’s not underestimate the fact that our president is using this as a tool, as a governing political tool, to gain sway with white, working-class members,” Michael Rodriguez said. “We are not going to allow him to scapegoat the immigrant community.”
“We have a society that’s falling for a false narrative brought forth by a liar who’s in the White House,” Vazquez said. “No one’s taking anything from anyone. We’re all one community.”
Calling out Trump’s “insidious, vile, racist rhetoric,” he said, “There’s a real simple solution to solving that problem, and that’s talking to your neighbor” — another facet, he added, of his “icebreaker” strategy.
All urged any residents noticing ICE activity to call the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Family Support Hotline at (855) 435-7693.