Posted on March 30, 2006

City May Buck Feds On Immigration

Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, March 30, 2006

If the great immigration debate now raging in Congress is decided in a way that turns illegal immigrants into criminals, Chicago Police officers and other city employees would not enforce it, the City Council decided Wednesday.

Three weeks after a massive rally in Chicago demanding better treatment of immigrants, Chicago aldermen blazed another trail on the red-hot issue.

They turned a 1989 executive order on immigration into law.

Shortly after taking office, Mayor Daley followed the immigration policy established by former Mayor Harold Washington in 1985 in protest of a series of random searches of city records and questioning of people seeking city services by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials searching for undocumented immigrants.

‘85 protests led to Washington’s order

In March 1985, Mayor Harold Washington signed an executive order forbidding city cooperation in random questioning about a person’s citizenship at city buildings and barring review of city files without subpoenas or questioning city job applicants about citizenship.

His order grew out of protests against random questioning by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization officials who staked out city buildings to check for undocumented immigrants. They unwittingly stopped Maria Cerda, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training, sparking outrage among Hispanics.

The order also followed a federal search of city records that resulted in arrests of 18 illegals applying for taxicab licenses.

The national push and pull on immigrants’ rights is reflected in statehouses from the deep South to northern New England.

Daley’s executive order states, “No agent or agency shall request information about or otherwise investigate or assist in the investigation of citizenship or residency status of any person unless such an inquiry or investigation is required by statute, ordinance, federal regulation or court decision.”

No citizenship conditions

It further orders that city services, benefits and opportunities should not be “conditioned” on “matters related to citizenship or residency status” unless otherwise required by law.

The ordinance passed Wednesday “would say, ‘Look, when we provide city services, be it by police or any other city agency, our focus is not immigration status,’” said Ricardo Meza, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who testified in support of the law.