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Chicago's Top Immigration Official, Mayor Lori Lightfoot Spar Over Sanctuary City Status

Updated at 5:59 p.m. Sept. 26

The new director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Chicago field office spoke publicly for the first time Thursday — and a defiant Mayor Lori Lightfoot showed up at ICE’s front door in support for the city’s sanctuary city status.

The political posturing comes days after recent raids on the city’s South Side.

Robert Guadian was appointed this month to oversee “enforcement and removal operations” for Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky.

“The sanctuary laws and policies in Illinois cause aliens convicted of crimes to be released back into the community to potentially law abiding citizens,” Guadian said from his Chicago office. “My message is simple: Challenge your community leaders to stop putting politics ahead of public safety. And allow your jail to honor ICE immigration detainers.”

And the city wasn’t Guadian’s only target.

He said that in 2018 ICE issued 1,162 orders with Cook County Jail to hold people suspected of breaking federal immigration laws. But the county also claims sanctuary status and refuses to work with ICE, he said.

“Cook County ignored all of the ICE detainer request. Zero were honored,” Guadian said. “When the sanctuary laws ... prevent local jails from honoring our detainers, ICE has no choice but to locate and arrest these released criminal aliens and other immigration violators in public places in the community — including at their homes and places of employment with the potential to arrest other undocumented aliens in the process.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle responded with a statement: "It is more important now than ever that we protect our immigrant communities and insure that residents are informed of their rights as they pertain to immigration policies."

Outside of ICE’s Chicago headquarters, Lightfoot reiterated the city’s stance as a sanctuary city.

“We are a sanctuary city. We are not cooperating with ICE, and we don’t appreciate the ICE raids in our city — and I’m going to push back,” Lightfoot said. “This is a city that stands shoulder to shoulder with immigrant and refugee communities.”

Lori Lightfoot
Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks outside ICE's Chicago office on Thursday afternoon.

Lightfoot also accused an ICE agent of calling 911 and falsely identifying himself as a Homeland Security employee.

“We are not allowing our police department to support any ICE immigration efforts in this city, period,” Lightfoot said.

Guadian said he was unaware of ICE agents calling 911, but said they do at times work with local law enforcement.

“When we call local law enforcement, we do not expect local law enforcement to make immigration arrests,” Guadian said. “Typically, we notify local law enforcement that we are in the area for deconfliction purposes and to prevent blue-on-blue crime or assaults.”

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th Ward, also joined Lightfoot to denounce a recent raid at the Route 66 Pizzeria on the Southeast Side.

“They took five people that make pizzas. This is an established business, people that have been in the community for years and years. They took a mother with six children,” Garza said. “We have to denounce what Trump is doing. ICE is not welcomed in our community. These are hard working people. They are not criminals.”

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