Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday dismissed a threat by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to pull some grant funding from so-called sanctuary cities where law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration officials is deemed lacking by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Emanuel suggested the Trump administration might not be on solid legal ground in trying to take away the money. And he reiterated his stance that Chicago would remain “a welcoming city” to immigrants from around the globe.
“But let me say this: We will not be intimidated away from our values,” the mayor said. “We will not be intimidated. We will not be coerced. We will not be pushed off from doing what’s right, not only in our self interests, but what is morally right.”
In overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago where Trump voters are relatively scarce, the mayor has often sounded a similar refrain on the issue. It percolated during last year’s presidential election, when Trump’s get-tough stance on illegal immigration was central to his successful campaign.
His administration stepped it up Tuesday, when the Justice Department led by Sessions announced local governments will lose some federal grants if they do not give advance notice when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from custody and allow immigration agents access to local jails.
The policy will apply to all cities that get grants from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, or JAG, program, which provides a relatively minuscule amount of money to Chicago. The city this year is counting on $3.2 million from the program. The money mostly is used to buy police vehicles, but the grants at risk amount to about less than three-hundredths of 1 percent of the entire $9.8 billion city budget.
Chicago is considered a sanctuary city because in part because Chicago law prohibits police from providing U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials access to people who are in the Police Department’s custody, unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions.
It also prohibits local police from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigation. And it bars on-duty officers from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to ICE officials about a person’s custody status or release date.
Emanuel made his remarks after the council meeting, during which the following actions were taken:
–Aldermen approved a $38.75 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging the city broke its own rules in issuing tickets for red light and speed camera violations, despite some complaints.
Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, decried the fact attorneys filed the suit at all, saying other projects will go wanting. “Something has to suffer to pay out $39 million, somebody’s project that could have gone forward is going to be put on ice because of this particular lawsuit,” Beale said.
Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, made a broader complaint, saying the city never should have let disgraced red light camera firm Redflex regain its right to bid for city work after the Tribune uncovered a bribery scandal there linked to the camera contract and the city fired the company.
Despite those concerns, no aldermen voted against the settlement.
–Aldermen also approved a framework for the rezoning of about 700 acres along the North Branch of the Chicago River beginning just north of downtown, a change that could set up a land rush as developers build residential towers and commercial buildings in an area that has been zoned mostly for industrial use for decades.
Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd, joined Waguespack in voting against the plan. Smith said there’s simply too little oversight in place to make sure developers put in enough green space and pay sufficient fees to the city to cover the cost of needed infrastructure upgrades to handle thousands of new residents.
“The ordinance that we are about to consider, in the judgment of the thousands of people who live around this area, will be a mistake of large proportion,” Smith said before the vote. “Its impact will be felt for decades and the fallout will only grow with time.”
–Emanuel introduced an ordinance to crack down on the type of cellphone theft that befell his teenage son a few years ago by making it tougher to resell stolen phones in Chicago. “There’s a profit motive for stealing a phone and a market that’s created, and … if you don’t change the law, it’s not only about a phone, it’s about a life,” Emanuel said. He noted that wasn’t the case with son but has been in other instances.
–Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, introduced a resolution calling on Assessor Joe Berrios to come before the Finance Committee to explain his office’s practices, after the Tribune series “The Tax Divide” found county valuations for property tax purposes favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor. His resolution mirrored one filed last month filed by four other aldermen. Committee Chairman Ed Burke, 14th, said Monday he would hold a hearing.
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