As President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to cut off some federal funding from sanctuary cities, Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Chicago would remain one and continue to protect immigrants from deportation.
“We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city,” Emanuel said in a news conference after Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “There is no stranger among us. We welcome people, whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, whether you’re from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you’re from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, you are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American Dream.”
Emanuel declined to discuss specifics on what funding the city might lose, noting that he had not been briefed on the executive order, which the White House released about an hour after the mayor addressed reporters.
Trump ordered Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to work with incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ensure sanctuary cities “are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” The order states Kelly and Sessions should strip the funding that is within their discretion and consistent with the law. It also directs incoming Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to tabulate how much federal grant money is received by each of the country’s sanctuary cities.
It was not immediately clear how much federal funding could be at stake for Chicago.
Cutting off all federal funding to sanctuary cities would require action by the Republican-controlled Congress. Last year, Chicago received a little more than $1 billion in federal grant funding for myriad programs, including early childhood education, transportation, policing, health initiatives, public assistance programs and disaster management. It’s unknown how much of that $1 billion could be deemed necessary for law enforcement, as laid out by Trump’s order.
The city, however, does receive millions under the jurisdiction of the attorney general through the Justice Department. Justice officials issued a report last year that stated Chicago could stand to lose nearly $29 million in annual agency grants if it were to be found in violation of federal laws on detaining people to be turned over to immigration agents for possible deportation.
Trump’s order also calls for the hiring of 10,000 new immigration officers and for the deportation of immigrants living here illegally who have been convicted of a crime, been charged with a crime, committed acts that “constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” have abused a program related to public benefits, who have been subject to “a final order of removal,” or who in the judgment of an immigration officer “pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
“Federal agencies are going to unapologetically enforce that law, no ifs ands or buts,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing with reporters. “We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.”
Emanuel’s public statements reaffirming Chicago’s sanctuary city status have come as the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and other major cities have done the same since Trump’s election.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, aldermen overwhelmingly passed a resolution reaffirming that Chicago protects all residents regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, criminal record, gender identity and sexual orientation. In the process, aldermen took the time to bash Trump as a “demagogue” and recommit themselves to the city’s long-held status as a sanctuary city.
“You mess with one in Chicago, you mess with all of us,” said Northwest Side Ald. John Arena, 45th. “We are a sanctuary city. We’ll stand by that. We will stand by every single citizen, every single resident of this city, regardless of your status. This is your home. That is our declaration.”
Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, said Chicago “should not give in to threats.”
“Even if it means that our federal funding is threatened, now is the time to stand up for what is right, now is the time to stand up for our values, now is the time to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,” Moore said. “We should not give into any demagogue who happens to somehow accidentally find his way into the White House.”
The president’s executive order is in the same vein as a campaign promise he made to remove as many as 3 million immigrants who have criminal records and are living in the U.S. illegally. Since Trump’s election, Emanuel has sought to calm the fears of Chicago’s large immigrant population, including so-called Dreamers, those who benefited from former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that offered legal protection to about 742,000 people who were brought to the U.S. as children and stayed here illegally.
Trump campaigned on rescinding the executive order that created DACA but later said he would work out a solution for Dreamers “that’s going to make people happy and proud.”
“I believe firmly, as it relates to Dreamers — these are kids who came to the United States not on their own will, their parents brought them, who are going to college, playing by the rules and doing right — they came forward with their name and basic information at the request of the government,” Emanuel said. “That would be a bait-and-switch. And Dreamers are actually committed to the American Dream. … We should honor them rather than threaten them.”
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