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Chicago Aldermen Encourage City Workers To Spot ICE Agents

Streets and Sanitation workers would report sightings of federal agents to the ward alderman, who would then notify immigration advocates.

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immigrant protections press conference

Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, speaks at a Wednesday morning press conference at City Hall. Ramirez-Rosa and other aldermen are encouraging workers with the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation to notify them if they spot federal immigration enforcement agents in city neighborhoods. “We’re asking them to look for ICE when they are out there,” he said.

María Ines Zamudio

Nearly a dozen Chicago aldermen, including members of the City Council’s Latino Caucus, are taking steps to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

During a Wednesday morning press conference at City Hall, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward; Mike Rodriguez, 22nd Ward; Rossana Rodríguez, 33rd Ward; Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward; Andre Vasquez, 40th Ward; and Matt Martin, 47th Ward said they’re encouraging workers from the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation to report when they’ve spotted agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“We’re asking them to look for ICE when they are out there,” said Ramirez-Rosa.

If Streets and Sanitation workers see a federal immigration agent in the neighborhood, they could report the sighting to the ward alderman, who will then notify immigration advocates. Rapid-response teams organized by several local organizations will then go to that neighborhood to offer resources to undocumented immigrants.

Officials from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and the Chicago Teachers Union joined the press conference.

“Despite the circumstances that have brought us together, I’m proud to be a Chicagoan,” said Lawrence Benito, ICRR’s executive director. “What has happened in the last couple of weeks is people coming together to say affirmatively to ICE: not on our blocks, not in our city, not in our neighborhoods.”

The aldermen also pledged to make their ward offices into resource centers for immigrants, and they invited other city council members to do the same.

Additionally, Rossana Rodríguez said an amendment to the city’s sanctuary ordinance would be introduced next week at the City Council’s July 24th meeting. She said the amendment would eliminate the ordinance’s four exemptions stipulating when Chicago police officers can cooperate with immigration officials. Those exemptions include when immigrants have warrants or prior convictions, or when they are in police custody or listed in the city’s gang database. Several aldermen have previously urged Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an executive order to close those loopholes.

President Donald Trump has been threatening mass deportations since last month. On Sunday, ICE was expected to target about 2,000 immigrants nationwide who have a deportation order.

It’s unclear how many immigrants were arrested on Sunday. The New York Times reported that agents over the weekend arrested a mother and two daughters, but they were “immediately released under supervision.”

In Chicago, one person reported to a family help hotline an arrest apparently by ICE agents at a CTA station. He was later released. In a statement, ICE officials in Chicago said the agency does not “offer specific details related to enforcement operations.”

Last week, Lightfoot denounced the raids and said the Chicago Police Department will not provide information to federal immigration agents. She also said that federal agents will not have access to police department databases.

Lightfoot also announced that the city would invest an additional $250,000 into Chicago’s Legal Protection Fund, a 20% increase in funding.

The fund is a partnership between the city, the National Immigrant Justice Center and other organizations. Established in January 2017, the fund provides legal consultation and representation to immigrants and refugees threatened with deportation.

María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio

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