Emanuel: Chicago will protect DREAMers despite DACA termination

President Donald Trump’s administration has recently announced that they will be rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and is giving Congress six months to replace it. DACA allowed thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the country and work legally. With the end of this program, some DACA recipients, often referred to as  DREAMers, could face deportation.

During the announcement of the change in policy, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions claimed that undocumented immigrants are seizing jobs from native-born Americans and are pushing wages down. Sessions further claimed that many Americans are denied jobs by “allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

On  Tuesday, Sept. 12 Mayor Rahm Emanuel assured DACA recipients living in the city that they had nothing to worry about and that they are welcome in the city of Chicago. Mayor Emanuel went on to say that Chicago is a “Trump-free zone.”

Emanuel says the rescinding of DACA “strikes a blow against our core American values and is an affront to basic human decency.” He also says that he knows DREAMers in Chicago who are “talented, hardworking and dedicated to their families and this is the only home that they have ever known.” 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has previously proclaimed Chicago a “sanctuary city” and has refused to allow immigration agencies into city jails without a warrant. (AP Photo, Matt Marton)

The mayor plans to pursue “every legal option to protect our children, defend out immigrant communities and uphold the enduring promise of the American dream.”

According to DePaul Professor Kathleen Arnold,  who has a doctorate in political science, Emanuel is welcoming people who already live here and is not violating any federal laws. In fact, he is “abiding by the Constitution and Plyler v. Doe, which holds that these students are allowed to attend all public schools through high school.”

Arnold also says that Emanuel could “simply refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they go after DACA students simply because ICE now has their information.” According to Arnold, since being an undocumented individual is a civil issue and not a criminal one, it would be illegal for ICE to go after DACA recipients unless they commit a crime.

While several cities have claimed themselves to be “sanctuary cities” and are refusing to provide immigration status for those in custody with federal immigration authorities, the federal government has threatened to take away federal funding that these cities receive if they do not comply with immigration policies.

In June, the House of Representatives approved two immigration bills. One stripped federal funding from sanctuary cities and imposed harsher punishments for those who try to re-enter the United States without proper documents. The other bill would deny states and localities specific Justice Department and Homeland Security grants, some of which are linked to law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts.

Chicago stands to lose over $3 billion in funds if the federal government decides to withhold funding. Programs such as infrastructure repair, building and repairing affordable housing and providing meals for low-income pregnant women could all be affected.

A joint Politico and Morning Consult survey found that 76 percent of people want DACA recipients to remain in the United States as citizens or as permanent legal residents. 84 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents and two-thirds of self-identified Trump voters wish for DREAMers to either be citizens of the U.S. or permanent legal residents.

Jinan Chehade, a sophomore studying public policy at DePaul University said “Mayor Emanuel’s statement seems hypocritical and mainly for publicity. While he claims to support DREAMers, it doesn’t seem so in action since he has shut down many Chicago Public Schools during his term. He has claimed that Chicago welcomes immigrants and their ideas, but he has been closing schools, which are important mechanisms for fostering ideas and supporting DREAMers. We want action not just words.”

Ellie Thorman, a junior studying sociology and public policy at DePaul said she was  “happy that the mayor spoke out against DACA’s termination made by the Trump administration, as I think civic leaders should do, but he needs to propose policy in order to do so. I wish Gov. Rauner would have said something, but that wasn’t to be expected.”

“Obviously, I’m pleased with the responses from Sen. Durbin, Sen. Duckworth and Rep. Gutierrez regarding protecting and advancing national policy and interested to see if there will be action taken on the local and state level to protect dreamers,” Thoman said. “We are a welcoming city and we need to remain that way. On a positive note, the Illinois Trust Act, which prevents state law enforcement agencies from assisting in immigration actions unless a warrant is provided, was recently signed into law in Illinois as well as  a new city municipal ID program for undocumented immigrants that can double as a CTA fare card.”

As the Trump administration continues to clamp down on undocumented immigration, Emanuel continues to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to live in Chicago with actions like the new ID cards  that city officials said will roll out this December. As well as doubling as CTA card, the IDs will also be able to be used as library cards.

Trump has given contradictory messages in the week after the announcement of DACA’s rescindment following outcry from Congressional leadership. He has been  using the program’s future as a bargaining chip in border funding negotiations with Democratic leaders. The president said he would support legislation that protected DREAMers if it were accompanied by new border security measures. While minority leaders said they were able to reach a deal with the president that keeps DACA alive, Trump said Thursday Sept. 14 that he won’t agree to a deal unless it provides funding for  the border wall.