Last week, after five years of struggle from community activists across Chicago, the City Council has finally voted to make Chicago a welcoming city for all. While the Welcoming City Ordinance, first enacted in 2012, has helped many Chicagoans find security in our city, it was initially passed with large exceptions that continued to place community members at risk. These changes will close the carveouts in the original ordinance, allowing Chicago to stand alongside all its residents.
The carve-outs in the 2012 ordinance had allowed local police to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if certain exceptions were present, such as if the name of a person in Chicago Police Department custody appeared in the city’s flawed gang databases, had previously been convicted of a felony, or had an outstanding criminal warrant. White supremacist enforcement priorities have led to overpolicing in the neighborhoods where Black and brown people live. This means that residents of these neighborhoods are systematically funneled into the criminal justice system, and Black and brown immigrants are doubly punished, facing further detention and deportation after serving their sentences.
With this ordinance, Chicago has taken a stand to defend our families and neighbors against the xenophobic, white supremacist immigration enforcement system, and we are proud to have worked for so long in coalition with so many other organizations across the city to get this done. Years of work and community organizing across the city achieved this result--this is a huge victory that will make Chicago safer for all its residents.
As we celebrate this victory at the city level, we also turn to passing a similar legislation at the federal level. The New Way Forward Act takes critical first steps to write racism out of our federal immigration laws and restore fundamental principles of due process and compassion to an immigration system that has been cruel, punitive, and racist since its inception. The New Way Forward Act also ends the harmful practice of local police acting as deportation agents or carrying out mass deportations with ICE in cities and towns across the country.
Both the Welcoming City Ordinance and New Way Forward Act are steps toward building an immigration system that rejects racial oppression, ends mass incarceration, and protects due process and the right for immigrants seeking protection to have their stories heard.
Julián Lazalde is the Civic Engagement and Policy Analyst at NIJC.